Miss travelling to China?
Well, your opportunity to do so just might come around soon.
It isn’t now, but with recent developments, it’s sooner than you think.
China has just announced a nationwide easing of COVID-19 restrictions. Here’s all you need to know about it.
China to Ease COVID-19 Restrictions
On Wednesday (7 Dec), China announced a nationwide easing of their stringent COVID-19 restrictions. This comes as a response to recent protests against the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The relaxed regulations are a sharp contrast to President Xi Jinping’s signature zero-COVID policy—the policy that threw China into the centre of the international stage when COVID-19 first reared its ugly head.
That’s right, three years into this pandemic, Mr Xi is finally letting go of his zero-COVID policy.
Mr Xi’s move comes after the majority of the world has already moved on with loosening their COVID-19 restrictions, including several countries’ recent lifting of border controls.
Perhaps there are people who take a longer time than your ex to move on.
Say Hello to the New Guidelines
China will reduce the recurrence and the scope of PCR testing, as per the new guidelines announced by the National Health Commission.
This should come as a relief to most Chinese citizens, considering that PCR testing has been quite onerous under Mr Xi’s zero-COVID policy.
But wait, while we are happy about the news, don’t be too quick to start planning your travel itineraries to China.
Travel Restrictions have yet to be lifted, and Mr Xi has yet to announce the complete easing of heavy testing as well.
This is in consideration of the low vaccination rates among China’s elderly as well as the ill-equipped health system that is inadequately prepared for a wave of infections.
For now, you’ll have to settle for Chinatown to satisfy your wanderlust.
The scope of lockdowns will also be reduced, and people with non-severe COVID-19 infections need not isolate at designated government facilities anymore. Instead, similar to most other nations currently, they can simply isolate at home now.
One more thing, heard of the green health code?
You can think of it as China’s version of TraceTogether.
When entering public buildings and spaces, people are now no longer required to show a green health code on their phones.
This is with the exception of people entering nursing homes, medical institutions, kindergartens, and middle and high schools.
The vaccination of the elderly will also be sped up.
Demonstrations Against the Zero-COVID Policy
It’s not every day that you hear about demonstrations in China, so buckle up for the scoop.
If you haven’t already heard, demonstrations started to break out across China last month.
The demonstrations broke out after at least 10 people died in a fire at a partially locked-down apartment building in the Chinese city of Urumqi. Protestors suggested that the restrictions in place as a result of the zero-COVID policy were a contributing factor to the delays in extinguishing the fire.
These demonstrations soon escalated to include calls for increased political freedoms.
At its most extreme, some even demanded Mr Xi’s resignation—opposition that’s unheard of since the repression of the 1989 uprising.
The demonstrations were swiftly clamped down on, with high-tech surveillance and security forces being used against protestors.
And by “clamped down”, the Chinese government really does mean “clamped down”. Those involved in recent protests are at risk of being detained, with authorities interrogating demonstrators or even checking commuters’ phones in attempts to uncover demonstrators’ communication methods.
China’s Weakening Economy
Just before announcing the easing of restrictions, China had released data on its economy as well.
In November, China’s imports had fallen by 10.6 per cent year-on-year, a drop that hasn’t been seen since May 2020, the height of the pandemic.
Over the same period, exports dropped by 8.7 per cent.
Perhaps the world’s second biggest economy is starting to face some trouble as well.
Vaccination of the Elderly in China
A key concern in China’s gradual reopening, however, will be the accelerated vaccination of the elderly demographic.
During the initial vaccine rollout, while most nations rushed to vaccinate the elderly first, China took on a different strategy.
They prioritised people like you and me—the working-age population.
Coupled with general vaccine hesitancy among the elderly demographic, it’s no wonder that vaccination rates among the elderly in China are low.
The latest data released from the Chinese authorities show that only approximately 40% of those aged 80 and above in China are fully vaccinated with a booster.
China aims to significantly ramp up this figure. Yet, it won’t prove to be an easy journey.
China has yet to approve any foreign COVID-19 vaccines, meaning to say that the vaccines we’re familiar with such as Moderna or Pfizer? They’re not available in China.
Instead, China has been using domestically-produced vaccines, which several studies have claimed are less effective than foreign COVID-19 vaccines.
It’s an uncanny similarity with your Taobao products—your heavily discounted Taobao vacuum cleaner simply isn’t going to work as well as one from Dyson.
These Chinese-made vaccines are not like the mRNA vaccines we’re familiar with. These vaccines use an inactivated form of the coronavirus to prime the body to fight the virus.
With any hope, China will start to learn how to live with the virus just as the rest of the world is doing.
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