BEIJING/SHANGHAI: China has slashed the quarantine time for inbound travellers by half in a major easing of one of the world's strictest Covid-19 curbs, which have deterred travel in and out of the country since 2020.
Quarantine at centralised facilities had been cut to seven days from 14, and subsequent at-home health monitoring reduced to three days from seven, the National Health Commission said on Tuesday.
The latest guidelines from the health authority also eased quarantine requirements for close contacts of people who have tested positive for the new coronavirus.
China has cautiously eased its Covid curbs on cross-border travellers in recent months, with health officials saying the shorter incubation period of the Omicron variant allows for an adjustment of quarantine periods.
The Chinese capital Beijing in recent months has reduced the quarantine period at centralised facilities to 10 days from 14.
China, last month, also removed some Covid-19 test requirements for people flying in from countries such as the United States.
Stock markets rose in Hong Kong and the mainland, with the Hang Seng Index reversing losses and ticking up roughly 0.4% and the CSI300 Index gaining 0.7%.
Shares in mainland tourism companies jumped more than 5%.
IN THE CLEAR
Beijing and Shanghai reported on Tuesday that no new local Covid infections, the first time both cities were in the clear simultaneously since late February, after months of fighting their worst outbreaks.
The milestone for the two cities, achieved on Monday, came after their daily caseloads dropped to single digits over the past week, allowing Shanghai to gradually resume eating in at restaurants and Beijing to reopen some leisure venues including the Universal Beijing Resort.
Shanghai Communist Party chief Li Qiang declared on Saturday that authorities had "won the war to defend Shanghai" against Covid-19, after a crushing two-month citywide lockdown that was finally lifted in early June.
The Walt Disney Co's Shanghai Disney Resort said on Tuesday that it would reopen the Disneyland theme park on June 30; it had been shut for more than three months.
Authorities, however, remained wary and were adamant that the government's so-called dynamic zero-Covid policy, which aims at blocking flare-ups from spreading as they crop up, remained in place.
Beijing would "fight against any new outbreaks at the outset and with speed and resolutely break their transmission channel", Cai Qi, the city's top Communist Party chief, was quoted as saying in a report by the party-backed Beijing Daily.
The city would build "a solid virus barrier", Cai was quoted as saying on Monday.
Earlier on Monday, the Beijing Daily apparently misquoted Cai as saying the city would maintain its Covid control effort for "the next five years".
The newspaper afterwards removed the reference and its chief, Zhao Jingyun, said it was an error but that did not prevent some suspicion among the public.
"Surely it wasn't a mistake! It's meant to gauge public opinion!" said a user of the Weibo social media platform.
Another Weibo user said that even if it was a mistake, "at least the higher-ups are now aware of how helpless we all feel and how we detest the current counter-epidemic policies".
Despite easing Covid restrictions in Beijing and Shanghai, their combined 47 million residents have been told to go through Covid testing every few days, to maintain access to public spaces and transport.
Elsewhere in mainland China, 22 domestically transmitted infections were reported for June 27, including five in the southern technology hub Shenzhen.