The Chinese government has rolled back on its restrictive COVID rules after the Zero COVID policy sparked an outrage across the country. Beijing's National Health Commission said that people who have tested positive for COVID, but with mild or no symptoms can isolate at home. Residents can also buy medicines without restrictions.
The government has also relaxed lockdown rules — snap lockdowns will be applied on specific areas, instead of shutting down the entire neighbourhood. The lockdowns will also be lifted if no new cases are found for five consecutive days.
Officials have also scrapped frequent mass testing — and only employees in high risk positions will need to take regular tests.
In an interview with CNBC-TV18, James Miles of The Economist said Chinese protests in November were clear that people disagreed with the government's handling of COVID.
“The Chinese authorities have been showing signs of concern for some time about the impact of these lockdowns on the economy. They have been stressing on the need to maintain economic stability and at the same time maintaining these tight lockdown restrictions. Then you had the protests at the end of November where people were saying that they disagree with the government and they don’t want these lockdown measures and enough is enough. So I think both of those pressures have now come together and have forced the government to move faster perhaps than it might otherwise have,” Miles said.
He added that easing of COVID curbs was a surprise as nobody expected such a rapid transition and easing.
“This has been a huge surprise, a surprise to many people outside China, who were trying to work out how China would exit from its zero COVID policy. Nobody expected such a rapid transition as we have seen in the past few days. It was also a surprise for many people in China, as they were told for the past 3 years that COVID is a severe threat to the population at large and the rest of the world has handled this terribly, particularly the western countries. So now we have a sudden switch whereby people are being told that the virus is not much worse than common cold, you can stay at home and not go to quarantine centres and life is going to be back to normal,” Miles said.
Watch video for entire conversation.