China to drop travel tracing as it relaxes ‘zero-COVID’ | Business News

BEIJING (AP) — China will drop travel-tracing requirements as part of an uncertain exit from a strict “zero-COVID” policy that has fueled discontent.

At midnight on Monday, the smart phone app will stop working, meaning that residents’ movements will not be detected and recorded, potentially reducing the chance of them being forced into isolation for visiting disease hotspots. China’s ruling Communist Party allows independent organizations to conduct investigations and has used these tools in the past to restrict travel and freedom of speech. It is part of the package that includes the medical code, which has not been disabled.

The move follows the government’s announcement last week that it was ending a series of tough measures. That follows a three-year lockdown, travel restrictions and restrictions on people moving between regions and cities, mandatory testing, and a requirement to show a clean bill of health to access the public sector.

Last month in Beijing and several other cities, protests over the ban grew into calls from leader Xi Jinping and the ruling Communist Party, at a level of public political expression not seen in decades.

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With people experiencing relief, the relaxation has also raised concerns about new infections that could overwhelm health care facilities in some areas.

Xi’s government is still struggling to stop the spread of the virus, the last country to test. But this new move shows that the group will accept more cases without protecting or closing travel or business while undermining its “zero-COVID” plan.

In the face of the surge in cases of COVID-19, China is maintaining a strong health care system and is trying to strengthen the capacity of hospitals to cope with difficult situations.

At the same time, the government reversed course by allowing people with mild symptoms to recover at home instead of sending them to hospitals known for overcrowding and unsanitary conditions.

News on the Chinese internet, which is tightly controlled by the government, sought to reassure the public, announcing that restrictions on travel, dining at home and other economic activities would be relaxed. return to pre-disease status.

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Chinese officials have long praised the “zero-COVID” period for keeping the number of cases and deaths lower than in other countries, but health officials now say the omicron variety poses little risk.

Amid a drop in testing, China on Monday announced only about 8,500 new cases, bringing the country’s total to 365,312 – more than double the number since Oct. 1 – with 5,235 deaths. That compares to 1.1 million COVID-19 deaths in the United States.

Protests broke out Nov. 25 when 10 people died in a fire in the northwestern city of Urumqi. Many believe that the COVID-19 restrictions could hamper rescue efforts. Authorities have denied the allegations spread online, but protesters have given voice to long-standing frustrations in cities such as Shanghai that have endured severe lockdowns.

The group responded with a show of force and arrested an unknown number of people at the protest or in the days following it.

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Xi’s government has promised to reduce inflation and chaos after the economy shrank 2.6% from the previous quarter in the three months ending in June. Forecasters say the economy may be slowing down in the current quarter. Imports fell 10.9% from a year ago in November in a sign of weakness.

Some forecasters have cut their outlook for annual growth below 3%, less than half of last year’s strong 8.1% expansion.

In an unexpected message from Beijing, experts are warning that there is still a chance the ruling party could change course and restore restrictions if the outbreak worsens.

Last week’s announcement provided ample opportunity for local governments to enact their own laws. Many restaurants in Beijing, for example, still require negative test results received within the past 48 hours and stricter rules for government agencies.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, distributed, reproduced or distributed without permission.



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