BEIJING, Dec 26 (Reuters) – China will stop requiring inbound travellers to go into quarantine starting from Jan. 8, the National Health Commission said on Monday in a major step towards easing curbs on its borders, which have been largely shut since 2020.
China’s management of COVID-19 will also be downgraded to the less strict Category B from the current top-level Category A, the health authority said in a statement, as the disease has become less virulent and will gradually evolve into a common respiratory infection.
Three years of zero-tolerance measures, from shuttered borders to frequent lockdowns, have battered China’s economy, fuelling 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 travellers 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.
(Reporting by Ryan Woo, Ethan Wang, Eduardo Baptista and Brenda Goh; editing by John Stonestreet)