China’s medical quarantine ‘longest in the world’

China’s regulations to isolate visitors for at least 21 days stem from the “Zero Covid” policy, fearing the risk of opening the door in a hurry.

China is one of the countries with the longest quarantine regulations for people with Covid-19 in the world, part of a “zero tolerance” epidemic suppression policy. According to this policy, community infections and close contacts are quickly quarantined. Local authorities will blockade the high-risk area, continuously testing millions of people for F0.

Visitors to China also have to self-isolate for longer than many other countries. The time depends on the city and province, but at least 21 days. For example, a person arriving in Beijing is quarantined for 14 days in a hotel, then for 7 days at home, and finally “under health monitoring” for another 7 days. In Shenzhen, people need to isolate for 14 days, then monitor symptoms for 7 days (maybe at home). Many areas require longer quarantine, like Shenyang for 28 days in a hotel and 28 days at home.

According to scientists, China estimates the quarantine period based on the incubation period of Covid-19. The Wuhan strain of nCoV has an incubation period of about 6 days, while the Alpha variant is about three days.

According to research on the outbreak in Guangdong from May to June, published in the journal EClinicalMedicine, The contagious Delta variant has an average incubation period of 4 days. The Hong Kong Health Authority said that most people with Covid-19 show symptoms within 14 days of contracting the virus, most commonly 5 days.

Epidemiologist Ben Cowling and virologist Jin Dong-Yan of the University of Hong Kong said that 21 days quarantine is too long. According to Cowling, the appropriate time is from 10 days to 14 days. Mr. Jin said that it is possible to shorten the isolation with fully vaccinated people.

“Vaccinations can shorten the time it takes to spread the virus. Vaccinated people have antibodies, they already repel the virus,” he said.

Experts also say that a 21-day quarantine could cause hygiene concerns or increase the risk of nCoV infection at the hotel.

However, some studies have shown that the incubation period is longer than 14 days. In October, a Hong Kong woman tested positive 5 days after the quarantine period.

Medical workers help people move to an isolation ward at Renji Hospital affiliated to Shanghai Jiaotong University Medical School, Shanghai city, China, January 2021. Photo: Reuters

China’s “zero tolerance for Covid” strategy is supported by the people. Academician Chung Nam Son, an adviser on Covid-19 said the country was consistent with this policy “for a long time”. He said the global Covid-19 death rate is 2%, too high for China to accept even if there is a vaccine. He said the price paid for opening so quickly was not worth it. China will follow other countries’ “Covid-19 coexistence” plans.

According to some experts, China can reopen the country, but is in no hurry to do so. Some middle- and upper-class people may complain about international travel restrictions, most people are satisfied with the government.

The Xinhua news agency said that nCoV is a pathogen that is different from previous viruses in both transmission and mortality rate. Accordingly, the world has only two options: completely eliminate Covid-19 or let the pathogen spread widely (to achieve herd immunity). According to Xinhua News Agency, when winter comes, the Northern Hemisphere and many countries no longer apply the mask-wearing measure, it is likely that the epidemic will break out again. The World Health Organization has warned that Europe will record an additional 500,000 deaths from Covid-19 in the next three months, after easing epidemic prevention measures. According to Chinese experts, the virus does not go away on its own. The best hope remains to fully immunize most of the population and lead to a highly effective cure.

Thuc Linh (Follow BBC, SCMP)


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