The National Health Commission announced on Monday that China will stop requiring incoming travelers to undergo quarantine as of January 8 in a significant move to loosen restrictions on its borders, which have been largely closed since 2020.
The health authority announced in a statement that China’s management of COVID-19 will also be reduced to the less stringent Category B from the existing top-level Category A because the illness has become less severe and will eventually transform into a typical respiratory infection.
Three years of zero-tolerance measures, from shuttered borders to frequent lockdowns, have battered China’s economy, fueling last month the mainland’s biggest show of public discontent since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012.
But China made an abrupt policy U-turn this month, dropping nearly all of its domestic COVID curbs in a move that has left hospitals across the country scrambling to cope with a nationwide wave of infections.
Strict requirements on inbound travelers had remained in place, including five days of mandatory quarantine at a government-supervised facility and three more of isolation at home.
That restriction and one on the number of passengers on international flights will be removed from Jan. 8. Travellers entering China will still have to undergo PCR testing 48 hours before departure, however, the health authority said.
Since January 2020, China had classified COVID-19 as a Category B infectious disease but managed it under Category A protocols that cover diseases such as bubonic plague and cholera, giving local authorities the power to quarantine patients and their close contacts and lock down regions.