China will now allow people with asymptomatic COVID-19 or mild symptoms to quarantine at home in another relaxation of its rules.
More COVID cases are asymptomatic infections and mild cases, with no special care required, the National Health Commission announced.
Previously, people who tested positive for the virus had to isolate themselves in overcrowded and unsanitary field hospitals.
It’s the biggest sign so far China it is preparing its people to live with the disease.
“Asymptomatic people and mild cases can be isolated at home by reinforcing health monitoring and can be transferred to designated hospitals for treatment in a timely manner if their condition deteriorates,” the NHC said.
Earlier this year, entire communities went into lockdown, sometimes for weeks, after even a single positive case was identified.
Relaxed rules last month meant only affected buildings were closed.
The NHC said high risk areas should be defined by building, unit, floor and household and not be arbitrarily extended to entire housing estates and communities.
The health authority has called on local authorities to “resolutely rectify the simplified and valid for all measures” for the prevention of COVID and to reject and overcome “formalism and bureaucracy”.
Schools that have not seen an outbreak must return to in-person teaching, the ad said.
For nearly three years, China has been enacting some of the world’s strictest COVID-19 rules as part of its “zero COVID” policy, managing the virus as a disease on par with bubonic plague and cholera.
But since last week, senior officials have acknowledged the coronavirus’ reduced ability to cause disease, while Chinese experts have suggested it is no more deadly than the seasonal flu.
There were people in the capital Beijing yesterday allowed to enter parks, supermarkets and offices without showing proof of a negative COVID-19 test in another relaxation of the rules.
People no longer need a negative COVID test to take the subway or enter one of the city’s airports. However it has not been suggested to change the rules requiring passengers to show negative tests before boarding.
Last month saw intense protests against the lockdown representing the biggest show of public discontent on the mainland since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012.
As the protests petered out within days amid a heavy police response, cities and regions across the country began easing measures piecemeal ahead of today’s announcement.