China says it is refining Covid-19 rules, not relaxing control

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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.

Agencies

 

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