BEIJING — Chinese health officials plan to lift Covid-19 quarantine requirements for international arrivals early next month, limiting the number of restrictions since the pandemic began despite a still high number of cases. taking one of the country’s largest measures to mitigate
China is maintaining the world’s most restrictive coronavirus lockdown, which has significantly slowed its economy and sparked outrage. Earlier this month, authorities abruptly abandoned the country’s strict coronavirus-free strategy following a wave of protests this fall.
China will lift all Covid-19 quarantine measures, including requirements for inbound visitors, both foreigners and Chinese, from January 8, according to the National Health Commission.
The commission later on Monday stopped treating Covid-19 as a ‘class A’ infectious disease requiring strict control measures and downgraded control of the virus to a ‘class B’ that requires more basic treatment and prevention. announced plans to The Wall Street Journal reported last month that China was considering such a move, with room to loosen public health measures even further.
The change means that people traveling to China from abroad must test negative for Covid-19 within 48 hours to be allowed into the country. You won’t need to be tested or quarantined from time to time. This is a big step towards opening up to a country that has been largely closed to the outside world for three years.
In a statement, the commission pledged to facilitate foreigners’ visits to China, whether for business, study or family reunion, and to provide visa assistance.
The change came as fever clinics and hospital emergency rooms in Beijing continued to overflow with patients on Monday, and Chinese President Xi Jinping called on local officials to struggle to save lives.
Before Covid restrictions were eased on Monday, President Xi for the first time mentioned the reality of a new pandemic in his own country, China, which opposes the possibility of America’s biological warfare.
“Currently, our country’s Covid prevention and control efforts face a new situation and a new mission,” Xi said. China should launch a “more targeted patriotic health campaign” to “effectively guarantee people’s lives and health.”
The journal visited three major hospitals in Beijing on Monday and found that the capital’s medical system is still overwhelmed with an influx of patients following the government’s shift in policy on Covid-19 control, and many citizens, especially the elderly, are suffering. It turns out that people are in a hurry to find a cure.
In the emergency room of Chaoyang Hospital in eastern Beijing, known for treating respiratory ailments, the corridors of the intensive care unit were filled with dozens of elderly patients lying on carriage beds. It was full and said only patients with the most life-threatening symptoms were being hospitalized. “Patients with less severe symptoms have no choice but to secure temporary beds and stay in the hallway,” she said.
On Monday, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report showing fewer than 2,700 new infections and no new deaths on Christmas Day.
A senior health official in the coastal province of Zhejiang, home to e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Ltd.
said on Sunday that new daily infections topped 1 million, with the wave expected to peak at about 2 million around New Year’s Day.
In the northeastern city of Qingdao, about 500,000 people are infected every day, a local health official said in an interview with the state broadcaster.
To minimize the impact of a surge in infections on China’s already hard-hit economy, some cities have said people can return to work even with mild symptoms. Shanghai authorities said on Saturday that the city’s 25 million residents do not need to be quarantined at home for more than seven days, even if they have tested positive.
Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said the rapid spread of Covid-19 in China could lead to new outbreaks across borders and the emergence of dangerous virus variants. Said it was on the rise.
“The new subspecies has great potential and could have a huge impact on other parts of the world,” said Dr. Osterholm.
China’s premier Li Keqiang said in comments marking the anniversary of the patriotic health campaign that has been developed over the years to target infectious diseases such as malaria, China’s adjustments to Covid-19 policies will be in an orderly manner. It said it was being implemented, but urged the authorities. Address public demand for medical care and supplies at all levels of government.
China’s healthcare system has struggled to combat the fast-spreading Omicron variant as it was under-resourced even before the pandemic. Due to the increase in infectious diseases, people are rushing to buy home test kits along with ibuprofen and other medications.
On Monday, digital screens in Chaoyang Hospital’s emergency room showed a long waiting list of people seeking treatment at the internal medicine department. In an interview with China’s state-run broadcaster last week, Mei Xue, deputy director of the hospital’s emergency department, said about 400 patients are seeking medical treatment every day. This is about four times normal.
“These patients are all elderly with underlying medical conditions. After a combination of fever and respiratory infection, they are all very seriously ill,” he said.
A staff member of the Beijing Emergency Medical Center, which coordinates emergency medical requests in the city of Beijing, said he and his colleagues had been working tirelessly for the past few weeks to transfer patients to Chaoyang Hospital, and that the current situation was He said he expects it to continue for several more weeks. .
To deal with the surge in cases, the hospital opened a second fever clinic at a nearby sports stadium for Covid-19 patients with mild symptoms.
Beijing United Medical College Hospital and Peking University First Hospital in central Beijing were similarly overwhelmed.
A sign outside the Peking Union emergency room warned patients that it could take four hours or more to see a doctor. A nurse at the Beijing Union’s fever clinic said patients had to wait in corridors for weeks until a bed became available. One elderly patient, unable to secure a bed, lay on a metal bench just inside the entrance to the fever clinic.
A nurse in the emergency room of Peking University First Hospital said the bed was full and the waiting time at the internal department was about six hours. The hospital’s public address system announced that nearly 50 patients were waiting to be seen.
In recent weeks, doctors and nurses from across China have been sent to Beijing to help the capital. Shandong sent a team of medical staff to Beijing, according to state media reports.
In the United States, the State Department updated its travel advisories on Friday, asking people to reconsider traveling to China due to the surge in Covid-19 cases, arbitrary enforcement of local laws and Covid-19-related restrictions.
—Xiao Xiao and Dominique Mosbergen contributed to this article.
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