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Conditions for China to downgrade its management of COVID-19 maturing - state media

BEIJING, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Conditions for China to downgrade its management of COVID-19 as a serious contagious disease improving as the coronavirus weakens, state media outlet Yicai reported, among the first to float the idea.

Since January 2020, China has classified COVID-19 as a Category B infectious disease but has managed it under Category A protocols, which give local authorities the power to put patients and their close contacts into quarantine and lock down affected regions.

Category A diseases in China include bubonic plague and cholera, while SARS, AIDS and anthrax fall under Category B. Category C diseases include influenza, leprosy and mumps.

Infectious diseases such as COVID-19 that have strong pathogenicity, a high fatality rate and strong infectivity are classified as Class A or Class B but managed as Class A.

But more than 95% of the cases in China are asymptomatic and mild, and the fatality rate is very low. Under such circumstances, adhering to Class A management is not in line with science, Yicai reported late on Sunday, citing an unnamed infectious disease expert.

COVID-19 could be downgraded to Category B management or even Category C, the expert told Yicai.

Any adjustment to the management of infectious diseases by the National Health Commission, China's top health authority, requires the approval of the State Council, or cabinet.

Vice Premier Sun Chunlan last week that China is facing "a new situation" as the pathogenicity of the Omicron virus weakens, becoming the first high-ranking government official to publicly acknowledge that the new coronavirus's ability to cause disease has diminished.

Since her pronouncement, many major cities have started to lift large-scale lockdowns, reduced regular PCR testing and end checks for negative PCR results at public spaces such as subway stations and outdoor parks. (Reporting by Ryan Woo. Editing by Gerry Doyle)