China softens response to zero-covid strategy

China softens response to zero-covid strategy

State media Xinhua reported an adjustment to Beijing's zero-Covid strategy, which has sparked nationwide protests, as China's most senior official in charge of its response told health officials Wednesday that the country faced a new stage and mission in pandemic controls.

With the decreasing toxicity of the Omicron variant, the increasing vaccine rates and the accumulating experience of outbreak control and prevention, China s pandemic containment faces a new stage and mission, Sun Chunlan, China's vice premier, said Wednesday.

She made no mention of Zero-Covid, her remarks came after China s National Health Commission NHC said the rectification of current Pandemic measures is underway and local governments should respond to and resolve the reasonable demands of the masses in a timely manner.

Sun said that there should be a human-centered approach, and China should improve its diagnosis, testing, treatment, and quarantine measures, increase vaccine and medical resources, and beef up medicine and medical resources in a meeting with the NHC on Wednesday.

The softened rhetoric came as officials in Guangzhou indicated an inching toward easing Covid 19 containment measures after the southern metropolis saw protesters clash with police on Tuesday evening.

In a press briefing Wednesday, Zhang Yi, a spokesman for Guangzhou's health commission, said the city has adjusted the designation of risk levels and pandemic containment measures to a varying extent in all its eleven districts.

Lockdowns in four districts, namely Haizhu, Baiyun, Tianhe and Liwan, have been lifted while lockdowns remain in areas designated as high-risk.

Guangzhou will stop sending all close contacts of Covid- 19 patients to central quarantine facilities and allow some to isolate at home if they meet the requirements, Zhang said.

The city will no longer launch district-wide mass Covid 19 testing. All districts should conduct testing in a scientific manner, he said.

On Tuesday, Guangzhou reported 6,995 new local cases, Zhang said. The NHC said that China reported 37,612 new local cases nationwide on Tuesday.

China has acted quickly to suppress demonstrations that erupted across the country against the government's zero-Covid policy over the past few days, deploying police forces at key protest sites and tightening online censorship.

The protests were triggered by a deadly fire last Thursday in Urumqi, the capital of the far western region of Xinjiang. The blaze killed 10 people and injured nine in an apartment building leading to public fury after videos of the incident appeared to show lock-down measures had been put in place to prevent firefighters from reaching the victims.

Public protest is rare in China, where the Communist Party tightened its grip on all aspects of life, launched a sweeping crackdown on dissent, wiped out much of the civil society and built a high-tech surveillance state.