china mask covid
People wearing protective masks walk on a street, following new cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Shanghai, China January 4, 2022. Image Credit: Reuters

Beijing: China eased its COVID-19 quarantine regime, cutting in half the time new arrivals must spend in isolation in what is the biggest shift yet in a pandemic policy that has left the world's second-largest economy isolated as it continues to try and eliminate the virus.

Travellers to the country must spend seven days in centralised quarantine, then closely monitor their health for another three days at home, according to a government protocol released Tuesday by National Health Commission. Previously, China required up to 21 days of hotel quarantine, though some people previously could do their last week at home.

The news buoyed investors. China's CSI 300 extended gains to 0.7% as of 2:20 p.m. in Shanghai, with hotel and airline stocks rallying. Futures contracts on S&P 500 also extended gains to 0.5% after the news, while the yuan erased losses to rise in both offshore and onshore markets.

Testing requirement during the quarantine period were also reduced. Travellers now are required only to give throat swabs, eliminating the laboratory tests that previously required nasal swabs. The new guidelines, the first update since May 2021, make no mention of vaccine requirements for travellers.

The National Health Commission also is making it a priority to increase vaccination and booster rates, particularly for those 60 years and older and others at high-risk of severe disease.