Authorities in China said this week that they have no intention of abandoning the country's "zero COVID" policy, but the easing of some measures was announced Friday despite rising case numbers. Quarantine in government facilities for close contacts of infected people will be cut from seven days to five days, followed by three days of quarantine at home, the BBC reports. The mandatory quarantine for passengers arriving in China will also be cut from seven days to five days, and the "circuit breaker" rule, under which flight routes are suspended for two weeks if too many passengers test positive on arrival, will be ended, per CNN. It's not clear when the changes will take effect.
The Communist Party's seven-member Standing Committee said Thursday that China will "unswervingly adhere" to the zero COVID policy, but the party wants to reduce disruption to the economy, AP reports. Discontent has been rising as the public grows increasingly weary of lockdowns, travel restrictions, and near-daily testing, the BBC notes. In Zhengzhou, thousand of workers living at a Foxconn factory that makes around half the world's iPhones fled on foot last week to escape a lockdown. People have also been angered by deaths in quarantine, including that of a 3-year-old boy who died from carbon monoxide poisoning last week in a residential compound under quarantine. His father said guards refused to help and tried to stop him from taking the boy to a hospital.
China recorded more than 10,500 COVID cases on Thursday, the highest total since April, when a surge in cases led to a lockdown that lasted more than 60 days in Shanghai, the country's biggest city. Beijing, Guangzhou, and Zhengzhou currently have record numbers of cases, per the BBC. Millions of people are under lockdowns in Guangzhou and other cities. In Beijing, hospitals have restricted services, many businesses have closed, and schools have switched to online learning. "It has become normal, just like eating and sleeping," 39-year-old food service worker Yang Zheng tells the AP. "I think what it impacts most is kids because they need to go to school." (Read more COVID-19 stories.)