Exclusive: China may announce 10 new COVID easing steps on Wednesday

HONG KONG, Dec 5 (Reuters) – China could announce 10 new measures to ease COVID-19 as early as Wednesday, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters, adding to 20 unveiled in November and a wave of measures to ease the spread easing of COVID-19 across the country.

Three years of zero-tolerance measures, from closed borders to frequent lockdowns, have battered China’s economy and last month fueled the mainland’s greatest public discontent since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012.

Treatment for the disease could be downgraded to the less stringent category B from the infectious disease’s current top category A as early as January, the sources said on condition of anonymity on Monday.

The National Health Commission did not immediately respond to a Reuters fax requesting comment.

Last week, Vice Premier Sun Chunlan said China is facing “a new situation” as the pathogenicity of the Omicron virus wanes, becoming the first senior official to publicly concede that the new variant’s ability to cause disease has declined .

Many major cities have since begun lifting sweeping lockdowns, reducing regular PCR testing and ending negative test screening in public spaces like subway stations and parks.

The national health agency previously announced on November 11 a series of new measures to improve COVID management and strike a better balance between disease control and economic support.

China will allow some of those who have tested positive to quarantine at home among additional measures to be announced, two sources told Reuters last week.

It would be an important change in strategy from earlier this year, when entire communities were put into lockdown, sometimes for weeks, after just one positive case.

Last month, new, simpler quarantine rules only required affected buildings to be locked down.

As of January 2020, China has classified COVID-19 as a category B infectious disease but managed it according to category A protocols, giving local authorities the power to quarantine patients and their close contacts and lock down regions.

Category A includes diseases like bubonic plague and cholera, while category B includes SARS, AIDS and anthrax, while diseases like influenza, leprosy and mumps are classified in category C.

But more than 95% of cases in China are asymptomatic and mild, with few deaths. Under such circumstances, sticking to the Category A strategy is not in line with science, state media outlet Yicai said Sunday, citing an unidentified expert.

COVID-19 could be downgraded to Category B or even Category C, the expert told Yicai. Continue reading

writing by Ryan Woo; Edited by Alison Williams and Clarence Fernandez

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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