China on Monday said that it will drop the mandatory quarantine requirement for those coming to the country from January 8, Reuters reported.

At present, those arriving in China are required to quarantine for five days at a government-supervised facility, after which they have to isolate themselves for three days at home.

The end of the quarantine is a major step for China as it had largely shut its border since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

China’s National Health Commission said that country’s management of Covid-19 will be downgraded to the less strict Category B from the current top-level Category A, reported the Associated Press.

Under Category A, local authorities in China had the power to quarantine patients and their close contacts and lock down regions.

The new direction comes at a time when in the past few weeks, coronavirus cases have increased sharply in China after it abandoned key parts of its “Zero Covid” containment strategy in response to protests. In some parts of the country, hospitals have become overcrowded and pharmacies have been facing shortages of medicines, according to Reuters.

According to an internal estimate from China’s top health officials, 25 crore persons or 18% of the population in the country may have caught Covid-19 infection in the first 20 days of December, The Financial Times reported.

China had also narrowed its definition of Covid deaths earlier this week, drastically cutting its toll. Health officials are now only counting deaths from Covid-caused pneumonia or respiratory failure.

On Monday, China’s National Health Commission said that arrangements for foreigners coming to the country for business purposes will be improved and visas will be facilitated.

However, it added that those coming to the country will still have to undergo a Covid-19 test 48 hours before they depart, reported the Associated Press. Passengers will also be required to wear protective masks while travelling.

“Passenger entry and exit at sea and land ports will gradually resume, while the outbound travel of Chinese nationals will be restored in an orderly manner,” it added.