(Bloomberg) -- Heads of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and other global organizations were allowed to skip quarantine and mingle with China’s premier and journalists at a summit this week, illustrating the country’s pivot from a Covid Zero policy that left it isolated and sparked protests.
World Bank President David Malpass, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and other leaders of economic bodies met with Li Keqiang on Thursday and Friday in eastern China’s Anhui province. They followed up with an in-person press conference where staff of some of the organizations chatted freely with journalists, who were all wearing masks.
Events like that have been unprecedented in China during the pandemic, at least until the country moved to abandon a policy that involved regular Covid-19 testing, lockdowns and isolation in government camps for infected people and their close contacts. The rules still state that a five-day quarantine stay in designated facilities is required for those entering the country, followed by three days of monitoring at home.
Malpass was in Washington for a conference on Tuesday afternoon, he said on his Twitter account, before traveling to China where he had meetings on Thursday, according to a separate tweet. World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was in Geneva on Tuesday, a tweet from the WTO showed.
Prior to the Anhui gathering, meetings and events such as the Winter Olympics were held in so-called bubbles, where everyone involved would be separated from the wider public and had to quarantine before returning to normal society.
This time, the journalists who attended the press conference were allowed to depart immediately after it ended and returned to Beijing by high-speed train. They were tested for Covid-19 before and after the press conference, and at least five reporters who tested positive beforehand were excluded from attending and required to isolate.
The World Bank and IMF declined to comment about the quarantine conditions for the visit, while the WTO didn’t respond to a request for comment.
China’s health department said Wednesday that a range of restrictions would be eased. The sudden shift away from the zero-tolerance approach to the virus has raised concerns that the country will be see a huge increase in infections.
--With assistance from Yujing Liu, Eric Martin and Bryce Baschuk.
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