China Relaxes 'Zero COVID' Measures

But the road ahead could be rough
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 8, 2022 4:29 AM CST
China Starts Loosening 'Zero COVID' Measures
A man wearing a mask sits on his luggage near a mural depicting health checks before entry to a restaurant in Beijing, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022.   (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

China began implementing a more relaxed version of its strict "zero COVID" policy on Thursday amid steps to restore normal life, but also trepidation over a possible broader outbreak once controls are eased. The country reported 21,165 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, though it was unclear whether the lower number reflected fewer infections or a reduction in testing, the AP reports. The National Health Commission issued relaxed anti-pandemic regulations on Wednesday, including a loosening of lockdowns and the elimination of a requirement that a recent negative COVID-19 test be shown to enter most public places.

The commission said it was due to "positive results" in fighting the virus and because of a recognition that the current omicron variant is less dangerous than earlier versions of the virus. "Our country’s epidemic prevention and control work is facing new situations and new tasks," commission spokesperson Mi Feng said. Neither Mi nor other experts appearing with him at a briefing Thursday addressed the possibility of a new outbreak once restrictions are eased. The relaxation also follows street protests—the largest in decades—by people fed up with the draconian controls, which have been blamed for hobbling the economy, upending millions of lives and causing the deaths of some people refused hospital treatment because they lacked proper test results.

While the relaxation sent a wave of relief through Chinese society, much uncertainty remains and the move was not met with universal acclaim. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert and a critic of China's reliance on lockdowns, said China risked unleashing a new wave of virus mutations on the world if it doesn't "mount and implement a proactive vaccination campaign." Whenever you have a large wave of transmissions of a virus, you give it ample opportunity to mutate," Fauci said Wednesday at an event organized by the Financial Times newspaper. “And when you give a virus opportunity to mutate, that allows it to form potentially new variants. And once you get a brand-new variant, that could have an impact on the rest of the world,” Fauci said.

Fauci and other foreign health officials have urged Beijing to import Western COVID-19 vaccines based on mRNA technology, considered more effective than the inactivated vaccines developed by China. Chinese officials have so far ignored such calls. he changes announced Wednesday include a renewed commitment to vaccinate vulnerable groups and the elderly, whose levels of immunization are far lower than the population as a whole. Only 40% of those over 80 have had the three doses required to cut the risk of severe illness or death, the Economist reports. China's difficulties are compounded by the fact that only a small number of people have been exposed to the virus under "zero COVID," leaving most with no natural antibodies. (Read more China stories.)

We use cookies. By Clicking "OK" or any content on this site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Read more in our privacy policy.
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
X
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.

X