China eases Covid measures and cuts quarantine time by two days

BEIJING — China has cut quarantine time for international travelers by two days, state media said on Friday.

Instead of having travelers stay in a centralized quarantine facility for seven days upon arrival in the country, the new rules stipulate a five-day quarantine, according to state media. This is followed by three days of home observation, unchanged from the previous protocol.

The new deadline also applied to close contacts of Covid infections in China, the report said.

In contact tracing, China has said it will no longer follow people beyond close contacts of Covid infections. Previously, people who were linked to these close contacts could face additional Covid restrictions.

The new measures reduced the number of regional risk designations to two from three — just low and high, according to the report.

Overall, the new measures have emphasized home quarantine rather than centralized quarantine.

China grapples with zero Covid policy

The measures also ended a policy that often resulted in the cancellation of the number of international flights, already operated at reduced levels.

The measures provided for the creation of a bubble for businessmen or sports teams entering China. People entering the bubble from China must be vaccinated and may need to quarantine once the event is over, according to the report.

Shortly after the announcement, the Hang Seng Index soared and rose 7%, building on an earlier rally following US data indicating relief from a recent surge in inflation.

Travel-related stocks rose, with China Eastern Airlines climbing 6% and Cathay Pacific gaining almost 3% in the afternoon session.

Casino operators MGM China, Wynn Macau and Sands China all saw their stocks gain around 8%.

China stuck to its strict zero-Covid policy, while the rest of the world shifted to a “living with Covid” approach.

Beijing’s emphasis on what it calls “dynamic zero-Covid” has been implemented with significant variation at the local level, leading to great uncertainty and dampening travel.

The number of Covid infections nationwide has risen in recent days to its highest level in about six months.

– CNBC’s Jihye Lee contributed to this report.

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