China is halving the time that people arriving from overseas must stay in a Covid-19 quarantine facility, reducing it from two weeks to one, the country’s National Health Commission said on Tuesday.
The step was welcomed by some investors but greeted cautiously by others. Since early 2020, China has enforced some of the strictest entry rules in the world, requiring that nearly everyone coming from overseas go into government-run quarantine — often in a designated hotel — for at least 14 days, followed by isolation at home.
The new rules issued by the National Health Commission say that time will be cut to seven days in the facility, followed by three days in home isolation with regular testing for the virus throughout.
Chinese investors appeared to welcome the changes. Foreign companies and some Chinese companies have complained that the government’s Covid isolation and shutdown rules were choking off business by deterring trips abroad and visits to China by investors and clients. The Shanghai stock market jumped after the new rules were announced.
But the European Chamber of Commerce in China reacted cautiously, pointing out that local governments across China have often imposed additional requirements for quarantine and tests.
“While the N.H.C. has recommended that this be rolled out nationwide, it remains to be seen if it will be implemented by all local authorities,” Joerg Wuttke, the president of the chamber, said in an emailed comment, referring to the National Health Commission.
“China may have to maintain a restricted immigration policy beyond the summer of 2023,” Mr. Wuttke said, emphasizing the country’s relatively low Covid vaccination rates among older people, and the Chinese government’s reluctance to roll out more effective foreign-developed mRNA vaccines.
The quarantine time for people determined to be close contacts of Covid carriers will also be cut from 14 days in a centralized facility followed by a week of home isolation to seven days, followed by three days of isolation and monitoring at home.
The new rules do not abandon the Chinese government’s “dynamic zero” goal of eliminating nearly all Covid infections by regular testing and, when clusters of infections are found, shutdowns of housing units, neighborhoods and even whole cities. But the rules indicated that the government is trying to soften the impact on people and the economy.
Travelers from abroad also will no longer have to endure viral swabs of their noses, an often eye-watering experience. Throat swabs will be enough.
Joy Dong contributed reporting.