Recent changes to China's COVID-19 controls — including the removal of the asterisk symbol that previously indicated travel through a coronavirus-affected area — are intended to increase the precision of virus control measures and deter excessive curbs, a top Chinese public health expert said on Thursday.
China announced its plan on Tuesday to shorten centralized quarantine times for inbound travelers from 14 to 7 days in a major upgrade of its COVID-19 prevention and control guidelines.
On Wednesday, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said that the asterisk, which previously appeared on the digital itinerary card of anyone who had traveled to locations with COVID-19 cases in the previous 14 days, was being removed to facilitate intercity movement.
"The rollout of these new measures does not signal a relaxation of COVID-19 control measures, nor does it mean abandoning the dynamic zero-COVID strategy," Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention posted to his personal account on Weibo, a Chinese microblogging site.
Wu said the adjustment is based on the latest global and domestic situations, and is science-based and meets China's needs.
He added that the removal of the asterisk will not increase the risk of the virus spreading, but will help prevent local authorities from imposing excessive travel curbs.
"The change is beneficial to promoting population movement and to stimulating the economy," he said. "There is now no more excuse for localities to implement unnecessary COVID-19 restrictions."