China finally lifts severe ‘Zero Covid’ lockdowns following protests

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After weeks of protests, China is finally lifting the harshest of its Covid restrictions, including forcing people suspected of being infected into quarantine camps.

The move to lift the country’s “Zero Covid” lockdowns comes a week after widespread protests rocked cities throughout the country, including in the nation’s capital of Beijing.

Per the BBC, China’s National Health Commission announced new policies to replace the previously draconian lockdowns, including:

  • Lateral flow tests would replace PCR tests in most scenarios where a result is needed, although PCRs are still needed for schools, hospitals and nursing homes
  • Lockdowns would continue but should only apply to more targeted areas – for example, certain buildings, units or floors as opposed to whole neighbourhoods or cities being shut down
  • Areas identified as “high-risk” should come out of lockdown in five days if no new cases are found. Several cities in China have endured months-long lockdowns. even with only a handful of cases
  • Schools can remain open with student attendance if there’s no wider campus outbreak

Additionally, the guidelines include a strict ban on blocking building entrances and exits.

Per the new policy, those with Covid can now voluntarily isolate themselves at home and not be forced into state facilities. Citizens also no longer need to show tests to enter public venues, and are allowed to travel across state lines without presenting a Covid test.

The sweeping changes to the country’s domestic Covid restrictions are very much in line with the lifting of lockdowns around the world, much of which had already done away with restrictions at the start of the year.

The move to lift restrictions comes as China grapples with its largest wave of infections, recording over 30,000 new cases daily, the BBC reported.

News of the changes was celebrated across social media, as users voiced their sense of relief about not having to worry about being interned at one of China’s numerous quarantine facilities moving forward — but some have expressed their concerns that lifting the policies could impact the medical system.

Since the start of the pandemic, people in China have been forced to live with severe restrictions on their lives. The policies proved to be deeply unpopular as it separated families, and in some cases, led to the killings of their domestic pets by men in white hazmat suits — often justified as interventions to prevent the spread of the now-endemic COVID-19 virus.

Now-viral videos have shown authorities beating up civilians for refusing to go to quarantine centers, killing pets, or fighting against entire neighborhoods that were deemed off-limits over infection surges.

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