China to reopen borders, drop Covid quarantine from January 8

  • Local authorities will be stripped of the power to shut down entire communities from early next month
  • The decision is the last step in the country’s pivot to living with the virus

China will reopen borders and abandon quarantine after it downgrades its treatment of Covid-19 on January 8.  The decision is the country’s last step in shedding three years of zero-Covid and pivoting to living with the virus. Covid-19 has been managed as a top category A infectious disease since 2020, putting it on par with bubonic plague and cholera. Under Chinese law, authorities must impose the toughest restrictions such as quarantine and isolation of the infected and their close contacts, and citywide lockdowns to contain those diseases.

But three sources from provincial health authorities and hospitals in Guangdong, Fujian and Jiangsu said they were notified by the National Health Commission on Sunday, asking them to prepare for the downgrade to category B management from January 8. That category means Covid-19 only requires “necessary treatment and measures to curb the spread”.

There are signs that China has been preparing for the pivot, with PCR testing no longer mandatory and Vice-Premier Sun Chunlan, who has been in charge of the Covid-19 response, urging lower level authorities to focus on treatment instead of infections. The National Health Commission also stopped announcing daily Covid-19 cases on Sunday, and passed the baton to a disease control agency, a practice more in line with management of lower level infectious diseases.  Authorities will also no longer refer to Covid-19 as a form of pneumonia.

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China, lockdown, Covid