China said it will cut its mandatory inbound quarantine by half on Tuesday in the nation’s first move to ease COVID-19 borders restrictions since March 2020. Overseas arrivals into China will now only need to quarantine for seven days at a government facility and then an additional three days in home isolation.
The new measures are down from what was previously 14 days in quarantine and then an additional seven days of home isolation.
The concession from China’s National Health Commission comes days after Shanghai Party Secretary Li Qiang declared victory over COVID-19 over the weekend saying that they “won the war to defend Shanghai” after emerging from months of a bruising lockdown.
The omicron wave that hit China, especially Shanghai and Beijing, during the spring has ebbed and the entire country recorded just one local symptomatic transmission on Monday while zero cases were detected in Shanghai and Beijing for the first time in months.
Chinese health authorities warned, however, the announcement did not mean China was changing course on their zero-COVID goal, but that it was merely responding to the shorter incubation time of the omicron variants in circulation.
“It’s absolutely not loosening up, but a more scientific and targeted approach,” said Lei Zhenglong, an NHC official told the pressing in a briefing Tuesday afternoon.
China remains the largest outlier in the world in terms of COVID restrictions as neighboring countries have either dropped testing requirements or completely reopened.
The country still maintains one of the strictest border measures against COVID-19 in the world as China is still adamant in striving for zero-COVID.
Nevertheless, the easing of measures was greeted with enthusiasm by the Shanghai and Hong Kong stock markets, both of which rallied nearly a percentage point after the news.
Tuesday’s announcement also relaxed isolation measures for close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases to seven days of home quarantine instead of having to isolate at a government facility.
China’s other domestic zero-COVID measures have not changed which requires people who test positive need to be sent to government quarantine and to test negative every 48 to 72 hours to access most public places and public transportation.