Vietnamese in China breathe easier with loosened Covid policy

By Hoang Nguyen, Xanh LeDecember 7, 2022 | 05:57 pm PT
Vietnamese in China breathe easier with loosened Covid policy
People wearing face masks wait at a traffic light to cross a street, as the Covid-19 outbreaks continue in Shanghai, China, December 7, 2022. Photo by Reuters/Aly Song
China continues to maintain its zero-Covid strategy through the third year of the pandemic, but Vietnamese people there are feeling more comfortable with loosened restrictions and lighter quarantine regulations.

"A few days ago, I still had to take Covid tests regularly, but now it’s no longer compulsory," said Nguyen Tung, a Vietnamese trader living in Guangzhou province.

Tung feels fortunate that there were not too many cases in the area where he lives, and Covid restrictions have begun to relax. He said he was surprised by the new Covid regulations.

In Guangzhou, the pandemic hot spot, more than 6,000 new Covid-19 cases were reported on November 30, however China has lifted its blockade in 9 out of 11 districts. In districts with few cases, city authorities have begun to allow those who had direct contact with Covid-19 patients to quarantine at home under certain conditions.

People are now able to test on demand, without having to take part in compulsory mass testing that had been mandated last year.

Tung said that quarantine regulations had also been loosened recently. According to the previous version of the zero-Covid policy, all Covid-19 patients and those who had close contact with them were placed in centralized quarantine facilities.

But now those who only had contact with Covid patients don't have to quarantine anymore.

"Asymptomatic persons and mild cases can be isolated at home with strengthening health monitoring, and they can transfer to designated hospitals for treatment in a timely manner if their condition worsens," China’s National Health Commission said in a statement on Wednesday.

People with mild symptoms or those who are asymptomatic may isolate at home for seven days, instead of being sent to a central facility. Those in close contact with the infected may now also quarantine at home for five days, instead of the previous requirement of spending eight days in isolation, first at a facility and then at home.

China will also expand the use of rapid antigen tests (RAT) instead of PCR tests, and authorities will only administer PCR tests to those in high-risk areas and occupations, while testing others only on a voluntary basis.

People no longer need to show a negative PCR result or a health code to enter public venues or to travel, except when entering hospitals, schools and homes for the elderly, said the South China Morning Post.

The NHC directive also orders officials at all levels to stop imposing temporary lockdown orders and ends requirements on mandatory testing for people traveling between provinces, signaling that people in China can travel more comfortably during the upcoming Lunar New Year holidays.

People no longer need to present a negative PCR test result or a medical code to enter public locations or transport, except when entering a hospital, school or nursing home.

Nhi Nguyen, a Vietnamese in Beijing said that compared to the beginning of November when the outbreak began, the lockdowns are no longer so strict.

"When someone is infected, they will be quarantined and only their floor or building will be placed on lockdown, unlike in the past when the whole neighborhood or even the whole city got locked down. Life is pretty normal now," Nhi said.

In recent days, Shanghai has recorded about 100 new Covid cases per day, much lower than the outbreak in early April when tens of thousands of people were infected.

According to Huong Le, prevention policies and regulations remained in, Shanghai, her adopted city of 24 million people. She said she’s already gotten used to strict Covid policies, so she doesn’t expect much of a change with the new regulations.

"Honestly, I don't really care because my life is already in orbit," Huong said.

Hue Pham in Guangzhou said that she is still worried even with the relaxed policies. "Every day, I still check my health code because I’m scared that I’ll still have to go into quarantine if I’m infected."

On Wednesday, China recorded over 25,000 new infections. Earlier on November 28, the country recorded more than 40,000 new cases, of which more than 36,000 were asymptomatic, which is a record increase since the beginning of the pandemic. But China has not recorded any more deaths recently.

China's current tally of 5,235 Covid-related deaths is a tiny fraction of its total population of 1.4 billion, and extremely low by global standards, Reuters said.

Despite the increasing number of infections, Vietnamese people here are no longer worried. "The virus is weakening and the mortality rate is no longer there, so people are not afraid anymore," Nhi said. "Now people are just worrying about unemployment."

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