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Beijing: Social media platforms and messaging apps on Friday were buzzing with frantic users exchanging information on the pandemic’s spread in China and the requirements for positive patients as Beijing continued its dramatic turnaround from implementing the world’s strictest Covid-control norms, under its ‘zero-Covid’ policy, to easing most rules.

“In line with the guidelines for optimising Covid-19 response, domestic entertainment venues and tourist attractions across China will no longer require nucleic acid results and health code checks for visitors,” China’s culture and tourism ministry announced on Friday.

In another complete turnaround in the official narrative, official Chinese media on Friday published multiple articles, across platforms, on how to monitor and take care of positive patients at home. Previously, even mild and asymptomatic patients were taken to centralised quarantine facilities.

Media issued detailed guidelines on what families should do if a member shows symptoms of the infection. The thrust: Omicron is a mild variant and no need to hospitalise unless the patient is serious.

China’s leading respiratory expert Zhong Nanshan was also quoted talking about the less virulence of Omicron.

“Omicron is not scary, as about 99% of those infected with Omicron can fully recover within seven to 10 days, and the focus should be put on preventing severe illness caused by the virus,” Zhong said at a national academic video conference, state-run Global Times newspaper reported

“The country should focus on strengthening the immunisation of the elderly and vulnerable groups and strengthen vaccine protection for medical staff, as well as accelerate the development and approval of nasal spray and inhalation vaccines,” he said.

The country-wide Covid-19 numbers for Thursday recorded a drop, as per the national health commission’s daily bulletin released Friday morning. After hitting a record of over 40,000 cases nationwide in late November, the daily caseload on Friday dropped to 16,797, despite the rapid withdrawal of restrictions this month.

But there were signs that citizens and businesses were weary of the new developments with chatter on social media and in private implying there was a rise in Covid cases as pharmacies reported running out of fever medicines and apartment complexes and businesses, especially in the food and beverages sector, reported residents and workers as having fallen sick.

The possible rise in case numbers could not be independently verified, but the discrepancy could be explained by cessation of mass testing, and, fewer positive cases being reported since mild and asymptomatic patients can now to quarantine and recover at home.

Hu Xijin, the former editor-in-chief of state-run tabloid Global Times and a widely read political commentator, questioned the official Covid-19 count.

“I think something must be wrong in the middle and local authorities are no longer reporting infections based on calculation of the actual situation,” Hu wrote in a post on WeChat.

According to Bloomberg, Hu didn’t provide further details on his calculation, but urged authorities to either adjust how they report their figures or stop publishing them altogether if the data isn’t accurately reflecting the situation.

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