By Julie Zhu
HONG KONG (Reuters) – China will allow some people who test positive for COVID-19 to quarantine at home, among supplementary measures to be announced in coming days, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
Home isolation for the infected would be a significant change in China’s quarantine protocols. Earlier this year, entire communities were locked down, sometimes for weeks, after even just one positive case was found. Last month, new and easier quarantine rules required just the lockdown of affected buildings.
Not all positive cases will be allowed to quarantine at home unconditionally, one of the sources told Reuters on Thursday, adding that pregnant women, the elderly and people with underlying illnesses will qualify to isolate at home.
Close contacts of the cases will also be allowed to isolate at home if their home environment meets certain conditions, the sources said.
Authorities will also step up antigen tests for the new coronavirus and reduce the frequency of mass testing and regular nucleic acid tests, the two sources said.
The National Health Commission did not immediately respond to a Reuters fax seeking comment.
Rare public protests against China’s ultra-stringent coronavirus restrictions, which includes throwing positive cases into centralised quarantine facilities for days, have erupted in some Chinese cities such as Shanghai, Guangzhou and Beijing since the weekend.
The demonstrations have become a show of public defiance unprecedented since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012. Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, who oversees China’s counter COVID efforts, on Wednesday urged further “optimisation” of testing, treatment and quarantine policies.
National health officials said this week authorities would respond to “urgent concerns” raised by the public and that COVID rules should be implemented more flexibly, according to a region’s conditions.
Prominent nationalist commentator Hu Xijin said in a social media post on Wednesday that many asymptomatic carriers of coronavirus in Beijing were already quarantining at home.
(Additional reporting by Kevin Huang; Writing by Ryan Woo; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Raju Gopalakrishnan)