China to Relax Covid Restrictions

People wearing masks in Shanghai

China has slightly relaxed some of its Covid restrictions as it seeks to quell growing discontent over the strict measures imposed by Beijing, despite case numbers rising to their highest levels in months.

Quarantine periods will be shortened by two days for close contacts of infected people and for travelers arriving in the country, while secondary contacts will no longer be traced and will avoid quarantine altogether. A rule penalizing airlines for bringing in too many cases will also be scrapped.

An announcement made by the national health commission stressed that the country “will not waver from the dynamic zero-Covid” policy, and notably avoided language alluding to the new rules being less strict, claiming the changes would “enhance” anti-pandemic measures.

“The situation is still grave and complicated. We must maintain strategic focus and … take more resolute and decisive measures to curb the spread of the pandemic and concentrate on the extermination war in key areas,” the commission said.

The move comes weeks after Xi Jinping was re-instated as party leader for a historic third term, and follows his first Covid meeting with the newly elected Standing Committee.

The rule changes were announced despite the number of cases in China rising, with the cities of Beijing, Guangzhou and Zhengzhou currently seeing record numbers. Despite officially maintaining “zero Covid” rhetoric it appears that Beijing is taking rising levels of public discontent over pandemic measures into account.

It is also understood that the financial pressures of implementing the strictest public health measures in the world have also played a role in the decision to amend the rules. China’s economy has seen significant contraction as a result of repeated lockdowns in a number of major cities.