Asia

Beijing, Shenzhen loosen more COVID-19 curbs as China easing gathers pace

FURTHER REDUCTIONS COMING

China is set to further announce a nationwide reduction in testing requirements as well as allowing positive cases and close contacts to isolate at home under certain conditions, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters earlier this week.

Xi, during a meeting with European Union officials in Beijing on Thursday, blamed the mass protests on youth frustrated by years of the COVID-19 pandemic, but said the now-dominant Omicron variant of the virus paved the way for fewer restrictions, EU officials said.

Officials have only recently begun to downplay the dangers of Omicron, a significant change in messaging in a country where fear of COVID has run deep.

On Friday, some Beijing neighbourhoods posted guidelines on social media on how positive cases can be quarantined at home, a landmark move that marks a break from official guidance to send such people to central quarantine.

Still, the relief has also been accompanied by concerns, especially from groups who feel more exposed to the disease.

And many analysts say they still don’t anticipate a significant reopening until at least after March next year, citing China’s need to achieve results in a vaccination drive targeting the elderly that it just launched.

Estimates for how many deaths China could see if it pivots to a full reopening have ranged from 1.3 million to more than 2 million though some researchers said the death toll could be reduced sharply if there was a focus on vaccination.

“None of this should be interpreted as a fundamental shift away from the zero-COVID policy but rather an effort to make it more streamlined and less costly. The goal is still to get cases back close to zero,” Capital Economics said in a note, referring to the recent fine-tuning of policy.

“The alternative of letting the virus spread widely before more of the elderly are vaccinated and healthcare capacity has been ramped up would result in a higher death rate than in many Asian countries that reopened earlier, undermining China鈥檚 zero-COVID success,” they said.

China reported 32,827 new local COVID-19 infections for Dec 2, down from 34,772 a day earlier. As of Friday, China reported 5,233 COVID-related deaths and 331,952 cases with symptoms.聽

Source: CNA

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