Beijing and Shenzhen eased further Covid restrictions as Chinese easing accelerated

Beijing and Shenzhen eased further Covid restrictions as Chinese easing accelerated

Epidemic control workers who perform nucleic acid tests wear protective suits as they, to prevent the spread of COVID-19, ride a motorbike on an almost empty street in Beijing, China. (Photo by Kevin Fryer/Getty Images)

Kevin Fryer | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Beijing residents welcomed the removal of Covid-19 testing booths while Shenzhen followed other cities in announcing that they would no longer require passengers to provide their test results for travel, as the pace of easing virus restrictions in China accelerated.

Although daily cases are hovering near all-time highs, some cities are taking steps to relax Covid-19 testing requirements and quarantine rules as China looks to make its Covid-free policy more targeted amid an economic slowdown and public frustration turning into unrest.

Three years into the pandemic, China has been a global anomaly with a zero-tolerance approach to Covid that has seen lockdowns imposed and virus testing frequently. It says the measures are needed to save lives and avoid overwhelming its healthcare system.

China began adjusting its approach last month, urging localities to become more targeted. However, initial reactions have been characterized by confusion and even a tightening of lockdowns as cities scrambled to keep a lid on the mounting cases.

Then a deadly apartment fire last month in the country’s westernmost city of Urumqi sparked dozens of protests against Covid restrictions in a wave unprecedented in mainland China since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012. Since then, cities, including So in Guangzhou and Beijing, the lead in making changes. .

Fewer tests

On Saturday, the southern city of Shenzhen announced it would no longer require people to show a negative Covid test to use public transport or enter parks, following similar moves by Chengdu and Tianjin, among China’s largest cities.

Several test booths were also closed in the Chinese capital, Beijing, as the city stopped requiring negative test results as a condition of entering places such as supermarkets and is preparing to do so for subways from Monday, although many other places including offices are not. Still have the requirements.

A video showing workers in Beijing moving a test booth with a crane onto a truck went viral on Chinese social media on Friday.

One commenter said, “This should have been pulled earlier!” Another said: “The denial of history.”

Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the footage. But at some of the remaining booths, residents grumbled about hour-long lines for tests due to the lockdown.

More cuts to come

People familiar with the matter told Reuters earlier this week that China is preparing to announce a nationwide cut in testing requirements as well as allowing positive cases and close contacts to isolate at home under certain circumstances.

Xi, during a meeting with EU officials in Beijing on Thursday, blamed the mass protests on young people frustrated by years of the COVID-19 pandemic, but said the now-dominant omicron variant of the virus paved the way for fewer restrictions, according to EU officials. He said.

Officials have only recently begun to downplay the dangers of Omicron, a significant change in messaging in a country where fear of Covid has run deep.

On Friday, some Beijing neighborhoods posted guidelines on social media on how to isolate positive cases at home, a historic step that marked a break from official guidance to send such people to centralized quarantine.

However, the relief has also been accompanied by concerns, particularly from groups such as the elderly who feel they are more vulnerable to a disease that authorities consistently described as deadly until this week, highlighting the difficulties Xi and Chinese leaders face in mitigating the disease.

China reported 32,827 new domestic COVID-19 infections on December 2, down from 34,772 the previous day.

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