China begins implementing relaxed anti-COVID-19 measures

Dec 8, 2022, 2:38 AM | Updated: Dec 9, 2022, 12:36 am
A man wearing a mask sits on his luggage near a mural depicting health checks before entry to a res...

A man wearing a mask sits on his luggage near a mural depicting health checks before entry to a restaurant in Beijing, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. A day after China announced the rollback of some of its most stringent COVID-19 restrictions, people across the country are greeting the news with a measure of relief but also caution, as many wait to see how the new approach will be implemented. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

BEIJING (AP) — China began implementing a more relaxed version of its strict “zero COVID” policy on Thursday amid steps to restore normal life, but also trepidation over a possible broader outbreak once controls are eased.

The country reported 21,165 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, though it was unclear whether the lower number reflected fewer infections or a reduction in testing.

The National Health Commission issued relaxed anti-pandemic regulations on Wednesday, including a loosening of lockdowns and the elimination of a requirement that a recent negative COVID-19 test be shown to enter most public places.

The commission said it was due to “positive results” in fighting the virus and because of a recognition that the current omicron variant is less dangerous than earlier versions of the virus — a fact long embraced by other countries that have reopened their societies.

“Our country’s epidemic prevention and control work is facing new situations and new tasks,” commission spokesperson Mi Feng said. Neither Mi nor other experts appearing with him at a briefing Thursday addressed the possibility of a new outbreak once restrictions are eased.

The relaxation also follows street protests — the largest in decades — by people fed up with the draconian controls, which have been blamed for hobbling the economy, upending millions of lives and causing the deaths of some people refused hospital treatment because they lacked proper test results.

“This is an inevitable trend. We must let go sooner or later, and we can’t always stick to previous measures,” said Xin Guijun, a 70-year-old Beijing resident.

“However, one thing is that we are on our own to protect ourselves, and we must cultivate our own awareness of personal protection,” Xin told The Associated Press.

While the relaxation sent a wave of relief through Chinese society, much uncertainty remains and the move was not met with universal acclaim.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert and a critic of China’s reliance on lockdowns, said China risked unleashing a new wave of virus mutations on the world if it doesn’t “mount and implement a proactive vaccination campaign.”

“Whenever you have a large wave of transmissions of a virus, you give it ample opportunity to mutate,” Fauci said Wednesday at an event organized by the Financial Times newspaper.

“And when you give a virus opportunity to mutate, that allows it to form potentially new variants. And once you get a brand-new variant, that could have an impact on the rest of the world,” Fauci said.

Fauci and other foreign health officials have urged Beijing to import Western COVID-19 vaccines based on mRNA technology, considered more effective than the inactivated vaccines developed by China. Chinese officials have so far ignored such calls.

The changes announced Wednesday include a renewed commitment to vaccinate vulnerable groups and the elderly, whose levels of immunization are far lower than the population as a whole. China has administered 3.4 billion doses to its 1.4 billion people, or about 2.4 doses per person, indicating that large numbers have not received the recommended three shots.

China’s difficulties are compounded by the fact that only a small number of people have been exposed to the virus under “zero COVID,” leaving most with no natural antibodies.

In an editorial on the Wednesday announcement, the official Xinhua News Agency said the changes were “introduced based on the latest epidemic situation and mutation of the virus to contain the epidemic in a more science-based and targeted manner.”

Xinhua emphasized the need to “rectify oversimplified or one-size-fits-all approaches and excessive policy steps, oppose and curb pointless formalities and bureaucratism.”

China has not formally abandoned “zero COVID,” which seeks to track and eliminate all infections, but its recent steps seem to indicate it is dropping it in all but name.

The ruling Communist Party credits the policy with sparing China the large numbers of cases and deaths seen in other countries.

China’s official death toll is 5,235 since the start of the pandemic, versus a U.S. count of 1.1 million.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Elon Musk departs the Phillip Burton Federal Building and United States Court House in San Francisc...
Associated Press

Elon Musk’s mysterious ways on display in Tesla tweet trial

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Elon Musk’s enigmatic personality and unconventional tactics are emerging as key exhibits in a trial revolving around one of his most polarizing pursuits — tweeting. The trial, centered on a pair of tweets announcing Musk had obtained the money to take Tesla private in 2018, reeled the 51-year-old billionaire into a […]
13 hours ago
FILE - House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Calif., pauses during a break in the taping of an interview ...
Associated Press

Biden, McCarthy to discuss debt limit in talks on Wednesday

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Sunday he is looking forward to discussing with President Joe Biden a “reasonable and responsible way that we can lift the debt ceiling ” when the two meet Wednesday for their first sit-down at the White House since McCarthy was elected to the post. McCarthy, R-Calif., said […]
13 hours ago
A resident of Salinas, considered one of the most contaminated towns in Puerto Rico, waits for a me...
Associated Press

Puerto Rico’s southern region fights for cleaner air, water

SALINAS, Puerto Rico (AP) — Shuttered windows are a permanent fixture in Salinas, an industrial town on Puerto Rico’s southeast coast that is considered one of the U.S. territory’s most contaminated regions. For years, toxic ash and noxious chemicals from coal-fired and thermoelectric power plants have enveloped this community, and residents have complained about health […]
13 hours ago
People lay flowers to commemorate British volunteers Chris Parry and Andrew Bagshaw, killed in Ukra...
Associated Press

Russia alleges Ukraine war crimes; friends mourn volunteer

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Friends and volunteers gathered Sunday at Kyiv’s St Sophia’s Cathedral to say goodbye to Andrew Bagshaw, a New Zealand scientist who was killed in Ukraine while he and another volunteer who also died tried to evacuate people from a front-line town. Bagshaw, 48, a dual New Zealand-British citizen, and British volunteer […]
13 hours ago
Jessie Blanchard's jeep bumper holds a sticker with the slogan "Yes We Narcan" on Monday, Jan. 23, ...
Associated Press

Experts urge better opioid rescue drug access to save lives

ALBANY, Ga. (AP) — Jessie Blanchard started small nearly five years ago, just trying to get enough of the rescue drug naloxone that reverses opioid overdoses to keep her daughter from dying from an overdose. She pleaded with colleagues at the college where she’s an adjunct teacher in Albany, Georgia, to use their prescription benefits […]
13 hours ago
Qatar's Minister of State for Energy Affairs Saad Sherida al-Kaabi, right, shakes hands with Lebane...
Associated Press

Qatar replaces Russian company in Lebanon gas exploration

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon, two international oil giants and state-owned oil and gas company Qatar Energy signed an agreement Sunday that the Qatari firm will join a consortium that will search for gas in the Mediterranean Sea off Lebanon’s coast. The deal inked in Beirut brings Qatar into Lebanon’s gas exploration market three months after […]
13 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
China begins implementing relaxed anti-COVID-19 measures