China will no longer subject inbound travellers to quarantine from January 8, putting the country on track to emerge from three years of self-imposed global isolation under a Covid Zero policy that battered the economy and stoked historic public discontent.

People arriving in China will only be required to obtain negative Covid test results within 48 hours of departure, according to a statement from the National Health Commission Monday.

That compares with the current requirement of eight days isolation - five days at a designated quarantine hotel, or central facility, followed by three days at home.

The government said it will facilitate visa applications for foreigners who need to travel to China for everything from businesses and studies to family reunions, while outbound tourism

The country also downgraded the management of Covid from the top level to the second highest, effectively removing the legal justification for aggressive Covid Zero restrictions.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention may also reduce the frequency of reporting cases, ultimately changing to a monthly report from the current daily publication, Li Qun, a China CDC official, said.

The speed of change has left health experts puzzled and residents scrambling to adjust to a new way of life that's seen infections explode and made the border curbs - put in place to keep the virus out of China - increasingly irrelevant.

"The new coronavirus will linger in nature for a long time to come," according to the statement. "It has become much less virulent than before and the disease it causes will gradually turn into a common respiratory disease."