China’s top health officials said a sweeping overhaul to its Covid-19 Zero playbook was a refinement of rules and not a relaxation of controls, dismissing interpretations that the changes were a step toward living with the virus.
Brandishing data that showed cutting centralized quarantine for travelers and close contacts to five days would still catch the vast majority of Covid-19 infections, the officials said a strict attitude toward stamping out infections remains China’s guiding principle.
The changes, which include reining in mass testing and banning local officials from over-zealous lockdowns, come from “a better understanding of the virus, and better research and development of vaccines”, deputy head of the National Health Commission Lei Haichao said at a Saturday briefing.
Still, they did not rule out a further easing of the rules.
When asked about one-day shuttering of centralized quarantine camps, Wang Liping, a researcher at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said China’s Covid-19 playbook would continue to be guided by science.
Later, Lei reiterated that the government would “keep advancing in small steps”.
The messaging came as a clear riposte to market euphoria over the 20 new measures to guide Covid-19 control, the announcement of which sent Chinese assets surging on Friday as investors cheered a potential shift away from the virus approach that’s exacting a growing social and economic toll.