China has stopped counting asymptomatic COVID-19 infections amid growing evidence of a surge in cases. Policies that required PCR tests to enter public spaces have been relaxed. Photo by Wu Hao/EPA-EFE
Dec. 14 (UPI) -- China has stopped counting asymptomatic COVID-19 cases, the country's National Health Commission said Wednesday.
China reported 2,249 "confirmed" cases on Wednesday. The decision and revised numbers come amid mounting evidence of a COVID-19 surge throughout China.
The capital city of Beijing was uncharacteristically quiet on Wednesday, with many workers staying home amid the latest outbreak. Restaurants and hospitals have been struggling to find enough uninfected staff, and supply chain issues have been reported.
Meanwhile, the government is accelerating efforts to vaccinate China's older citizens, who are vaccinated at much lower rates than the general population.
China's zero-COVID policy, which requires stringent screening as well as isolation for infected people, led to rare public demonstrations after 10 people died in a fire in the Xinjiang province. Protestors blamed strict COVID-19 policies for the slow emergency response to the blaze.
Blank sheets of paper, representing grievances the protestors are not allowed to express, have become a symbol of the demonstrations.
There are signs that the government in scaling back on its strict policies. In the past few weeks multiple testing facilities that would screen citizens before they were allowed into public spaces have been shut down. On Monday China discontinued an app the government was using to track travel and quarantine individuals who had visited high risk areas.
Despite public backlash and eased restrictions, there are indications that the government's change of course could have devastating consequences. With current vaccination rate, the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions could lead to over a million deaths, according to a study published by Nature Medicine in May.