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Why are China’s COVID regulations so strict?

BEIJING (AP) — At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, China made its case “Zero-Covid” measures. which were tough but not inconsistent with what many other countries were doing to try to contain the virus. While most other countries viewed the health and safety regulations as temporary until vaccines were widely available, China remained steadfast in its strategy.

Tired of policies that have confined millions of people to their homes in an attempt to isolate every infection, and with an eye on the freedoms now being enjoyed in other countries around the world, protests broke out around China in recent days.

Although some anti-virus restrictions have been eased in some places, the ruling Communist Party has reaffirmed its “zero-COVID” strategy. Here are some rules:


Arriving travelers must undergo a PCR test before their flight and are quarantined at their hotel for five days and at home for three days after arrival. It may sound strict, but before the updated rules earlier this month, travelers had to take two PCR tests before flying and quarantine for seven days in a hotel and three days at home. Previously, the quarantine period was 14 days. China has also ended its “switch” policy, shutting down a flight for a week or two if a certain percentage of passengers on board test positive for COVID-19, with the length of the ban depending on how many of them have been infected with the virus.


Passengers on domestic flights, trains and buses who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 must undergo five days of quarantine in designated areas plus three days at home. Prior to the November changes, the quarantine period was longer, and close contacts of someone who had been in close contact with someone with COVID also required isolation. People who have visited areas of China considered “high risk” must also undergo seven days of home quarantine.


Inside China, people must show their personal “green code” — meaning they are negative for COVID — when entering public places such as shopping malls and restaurants or using public transportation. Everyone has to register with their ID and then the code is displayed via a smartphone app. Staying “green” means not contracting COVID-19, not having close contact with someone with the virus, and not visiting areas considered risky. If there is an outbreak in your area, local authorities may require regular testing to keep the code green. For example, at the moment in Beijing, residents must take a rapid test for COVID at least every 48 hours at a government-approved facility.


China has responded quickly and decisively to any detection of COVID-19 and locked down parts or entire cities. For now, the central urban area of ​​Chongqing, home to about 10.3 million people, is under lockdown, as is part of Guangzhou.

The decision about what to block depends on the scale of the outbreak, and smaller blocks of buildings, areas of construction complexes or urban areas are common. Entire apartment buildings are locked down if one resident tests positive for COVID, and people are not allowed to leave for at least five days. Food and other necessary goods can be ordered with delivery.

Similarly, office buildings are closed when someone in the building tests positive for COVID until the building is disinfected, a process that usually takes several days.


There are many other rules in place in China that would be familiar to most from the early months of the pandemic. Social distancing is encouraged and people must wear masks in public. In areas believed to be at risk of COVID transmission, mass gathering restrictions are in place, restaurants are closed to indoor dining, and public places are required to have enhanced disinfection measures.

Just like the bubble measures introduced for Winter Olympics 2022 In Beijing, facilities where people are considered most at risk, such as nursing homes, have so-called “closed-loop” management plans.


AP News researcher Caroline Chen and Yu Bing contributed to this report.


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