China said Monday it will reopen borders and abandon quarantine measures that have been in place to stem the spread of coronavirus infections on Jan. 8, in a full departure from its strict "zero-COVID" policy that involved lockdowns and isolation measures at designated facilities.

China's National Health Commission said inbound travelers -- both foreigners and Chinese nationals -- will be able to enter the country after testing negative for COVID-19 within 48 hours before departure, and that a PCR test and quarantine at a designated facility will no longer be required.

Passengers wearing face masks pull baggage at a departure lobby in Beijing Capital International Airport on Dec. 27, 2022, after the central government recently dropped its "zero-COVID" policy. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

At present, five days of quarantine at a designated facility and three days of isolation at home are required for foreign arrivals. Some people, including travelers without a home in China, must spend eight days at a facility.

Beijing significantly relaxed its stringent antivirus measures on Dec. 7 following an outpouring of public frustration, culminating in rare nationwide protests. It has since dropped measures such as frequent PCR testing, but an eight-day quarantine for foreign arrivals remains the last major restriction.

The drastic easing has triggered a rapid spread of the virus across China, but President Xi Jinping appears determined to promote economic recovery by reopening the country's borders.

The commission said in a statement that the Chinese term for COVID-19 has been changed from "novel coronavirus pneumonia" to "novel coronavirus infection" and its management levels have been downgraded, meaning lockdowns, quarantine and the identification of close contacts will be dropped.

Since the early stages of the pandemic in January 2020, China implemented strict antivirus measures, but the country now says its focus will be shifted to the prevention of severe cases.

The commission also said Beijing will facilitate visa procedures for foreigners entering China for business, study and family visits and that outbound tourism for Chinese citizens will be resumed "in an orderly manner" in accordance with the international situation regarding the pandemic.

People wearing masks walk in a subway station in Beijing during the morning rush hour in Beijing on Dec. 27, 2022. (Kyodo)

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