China today released 10 new measures to further optimize its COVID response, including allowing COVID patients with mild and no symptoms, and those who meet certain requirements to quarantine at home.
Other major measures include reducing the frequency of nucleic acid testing, scrapping negative nucleic acid result and health code requirements for entering public places except for designated locations such as nursing homes, medical institutions and primary and secondary schools, as well as lifting COVID testing and health code requirements for domestic cross-regional travelers.
In light of the changing situations and the weakened virulence of Omicron, the State Council released the new measures to further optimize the response to COVID-19, lifting restrictions in high-risk areas and accelerating vaccination among the elderly, in order to further strike a balance between anti-epidemic work and social and economic development.
While subject to home quarantine, health monitoring should be strengthened, the new plan noted. Close contacts who meet requirements can also opt for five-day home quarantine or choose collective quarantine.
The new measures scrap mass testing regimes and further downsize the scale of at-risk groups to be tested. Nucleic acid testing will not be carried out according to administrative regions and the scope as well as the frequency of the nucleic testing will be further reduced under the new measures. Antigen tests can be carried out in accordance to the needs of epidemic prevention work.
Outside of designated locations including nursing homes, welfare centers, medical institutions, childcare facilities, and primary and secondary schools, neither negative nucleic acid test results nor health codes will be checked.
However, localities can decide on pandemic prevention measures on major government offices, large enterprises and some specific locations.
No nucleic acid test results or health codes will be required for domestic cross-regional travel. Similar checks for travelers upon arrival are also revoked.
The new measures underlined the need to boost vaccination rates especially among those over 60 years, noting that special arrangements should be put in place to assist seniors at vaccination sites.
Non-high-risk areas shall not restrict the flow of people and shall not suspend work, production or business activities, according to the new measures.
Authorities also called for the strengthening of classification and management of the health status for key groups of people, adding that local health workers and family doctors should act as "gatekeepers" in this respect. Communities should monitor the situation of elderly residents who have underlying diseases such as cerebrovascular condition, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, and tumors as part of classified management.
Schools are required to resolutely implement scientific and precise prevention and control requirements. Campuses without infections must carry out normal offline teaching activities, while on-campus supermarkets, canteens, stadiums and libraries must operate as normal.
Wang Guangfa, a respiratory expert from Peking University First Hospital, said that the new measures aim to allocate resources to the places in most needed.
"Considering that the virus has been mutating, if we continue adopting the previous measures, we'll get limited gain with much higher price," Wang said.