China scraps many Covid rules and app as variant ‘spreads rapidly’

China looks set to face a fresh coronavirus wave this winter after dismantling its zero-Covid policy and scrapping its tracking app. Beijing unveiled sweeping changes to its pandemic response on Wednesday which continued into this week as China’s “mobile itinerary card” tracking app was deactivated.

The system used users’ cell phone data to track their whereabouts in the past fortnight in an attempt to identify individuals who have been in “high-risk” areas.

Despite the decision to deactivate the app, a separate health code scanning system was used in a bid to reduce the number of places that remain in operation.

Beijing’s move away from coronavirus restrictions comes after the nation was hit by a wave of protests.

Demonstrations took place at the end of November and many considered it the biggest act of civil unrest since protesters took to Tiananmen Square in 1989.

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However, pandemic expert Zhong Nanshan reportedly told state media on Saturday that the Omicron variant was “spreading [Covid] rapidly”.

Zhong added: “No matter how strong the prevention and control is, it will be difficult to completely cut off the transmission chain.”

Chen Zhi, chief physician of the Beijing Emergency Center revealed that the daily volume of emergency calls had surged from its usual 5,000 to more than 30,000 in recent days.

Authorities also recorded 8,626 COVID-19 cases across China on Sunday, down from the previous day’s count of 10,597.

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However, the figure is much lower than the more than 40,000 daily cases recorded late last month.

According to CNN, a residential building in Beijing highlighted concerns about the current coronavirus situation.

A note said: “Due to the severe epidemic situation in recent days, the number of employees who can come to work is seriously insufficient, and the normal operation of the apartment has been greatly affected and challenged.”

A loosening of Covid restrictions came after state broadcaster CCTV reported that China’s State Council pulled back on 10 areas, including home quarantine.

However, according to the BBC, the national tracking app went offline on Monday after being operational for three years.

President Xi’s previous measures, which were dubbed a zero-Covid policy, included strict lockdowns, mass testing, home isolation, school closures and restrictions for shoppers.



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