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How strict are China’s rules on COVID-19?

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At the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, China introduced COVID-free measures that were strict, but not in line with what many other countries are doing to try to contain the virus. While most other countries viewed health and safety regulations as temporary until vaccines are widely available, China has stuck with its strategy.

Fed up with politics that has confined millions of people to their homes trying to isolate each infection, and mindful of the freedoms they now enjoy elsewhere in the world, people across China have been protesting in recent days.

Despite easing some virus restrictions in some places, the ruling Communist Party has affirmed its “Zero COVID” strategy.

Here are some of the regulations:

8 days quarantine for all arriving passengers

Incoming travelers are required to take a PCR test before travel and self-isolate in a hotel for five days and at home for three days upon arrival. This may sound drastic, but before the regulations were updated earlier this month, travelers were required to take two PCR tests before traveling and quarantine for seven days in a hotel and three days at home. Previously, the quarantine period was 14 days. China also ended a ‘circuit breaker’ policy of grounding a flight for one or two weeks if a certain percentage of the passengers on board tested positive for COVID-19, with the length of the ban depending on the number of people infected with the virus. . .

An airport security guard wearing protective clothing signals a masked traveler to proceed with security checks at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing on August 24. (Andy Wong / Associated Press)

Quarantine contacts on national roads

Passengers on domestic flights, trains or buses who are in close contact with a person infected with the COVID-19 virus must self-quarantine for five days at designated locations, plus three days at home. Prior to the November changes, the quarantine time was longer and close contacts of someone who had been in close contact with someone with COVID had to be isolated as well. People who have visited areas in China deemed “high risk” must also self-quarantine for seven days at home.

Continuous testing is required to stay “green”

In China, individuals must show their personal “green code” – to indicate they are coronavirus negative – when entering public places such as shopping malls and restaurants or when using public transportation. Everyone must register with their identification papers, and then the code is displayed via the smartphone app. Staying “green” means not getting infected with COVID-19, not having close contact with someone who has the virus, and not visiting areas deemed unsafe. If there is an outbreak in your area, local authorities may require regular testing to maintain the green code. In Beijing now, for example, residents must take a rapid COVID test at least every 48 hours at a government-approved facility.

Security guards wearing masks monitor access to a neighborhood near QR codes used to check cases of health codes on June 20 in Beijing. (Ng Han Guan/The Associated Press)

A positive case can isolate an entire building

China has reacted quickly and decisively to any detection of COVID-19, locking down parts of entire cities or locking them down. For now, the central metropolitan area of ​​Chongqing, which has a population of around 10.3 million, is locked down, as is part of Guangzhou.

The decision to close depends on the scale of the outbreak, and small closures of buildings, building areas, or city neighborhoods are common. Entire units of apartment buildings are locked down if a resident is infected with COVID-19, and people are not allowed to leave for at least five days. Food and other essential supplies can be ordered for delivery.

Likewise, office buildings are closed if someone in the building tests positive for COVID until the building can be disinfected, a process that usually takes several days.

hour | Experts wonder what China’s strict COVID-19 rules have accomplished:

Experts question the effectiveness of China’s COVID-19 lockdowns

The strict lockdowns in China should have given the country time to vaccinate much of the population against COVID-19, says Canadian infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogosh. China is instead “now playing catch-up,” Bogosh said.

Like the first months of the pandemic

China instituted many other regulations that may be familiar to most people from the early months of the pandemic. Social distancing is encouraged and people must wear masks in public. In areas where there is a risk of COVID transmission, there are restrictions on large gatherings, restaurants are closed for indoor dining, and enhanced disinfection measures are needed in public spaces.

Much like the bubble measures imposed at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, facilities where people are considered most vulnerable, such as nursing homes, have so-called “closed-loop management” systems.

Commuters wearing face masks navigate a street in Beijing’s central business district on October 20. (Mark Schiefelbein / Associated Press)

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