Beijing removes burden of COVID testing as broader relaxation looms

Beijing removes burden of COVID testing as broader relaxation looms
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  • Tests that are no longer needed for supermarkets, offices
  • The latest in a mix of nationwide easing measures
  • The curbs sparked widespread protests last month
  • New national rules set for Wednesday: sources

BEIJING, Dec 6 (Reuters) – Residents of China’s capital were allowed on Tuesday to enter parks, supermarkets, offices and airports without a negative COVID-19 test, the latest in a mix of easing measures across the country after unprecedented protests against a hard zero-COVID. politics.

“Beijing prepares for life again,” read a headline in the government-owned China Daily newspaper, adding that people were “gradually embracing” newfound freedoms.

Officials have been loosening some of the world’s toughest COVID restrictions to varying degrees and softening their tone on the threat of the virus, in what many hope could herald a steeper shift back to business as usual three years into the pandemic.

“This could be the first step towards reopening,” Hu Dongxu, 27, told Reuters as he swiped his travel card to enter a train station in Beijing, which also eliminated the need for tests to use the subway.

While waiting for news, some people, fearful that the virus is now spreading faster, rushed to buy COVID antigen kits and fever medicines, and market regulators issued warnings against hoarding and price gouging. read more

Both of the city’s airports no longer require people to be tested to enter the terminal, state media reported, though there was no indication of a rule change for a negative test before boarding a flight.

The easing of the rules comes after a series of protests last month marked the biggest show of public discontent in mainland China since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012.

While the demonstrations have subsided, crowds of students at a university in the city of Nanjing chanted at a protest on Monday against the COVID policy on their campus, according to videos on Twitter. Reuters confirmed that the images were taken at Nanjing University of Technology.

china can announce 10 new measures of relaxation as early as Wednesday, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

The prospect of relaxation has awakened optimism among investors May the world’s second largest economy regain strength and help fuel global growth.

The Chinese yuan has risen around 5% against the dollar since early November on expectations of an eventual reopening of China’s economy.

Screenshots of an article criticizing China’s zero-COVID policy published by a health watchdog in Henan province were widely shared on social media on Tuesday, after it was censored following its publication.

The article posted on the WeChat page of the Zhumadian city health commission criticized some “devastating” impacts caused by the policy and its sometimes “brutal” implementation.

But on the ground, many people have been slow to adjust to the changing rules. Passenger traffic in major cities like Beijing and Chongqing has remained at a fraction of normal levels.

Some people remain wary of contracting the virus, especially the elderlywhile there is concern about the strain that relaxation can place on a fragile health system.

“My parents are still very careful,” said James Liu, 22, a student in the city of Shenzhen in the southern province of Guangdong, where authorities have waived testing requirements to enter the family’s residential compound.

China has reported 5,235 COVID-related deaths as of Monday, but some experts have warned that the toll could exceed a million if the exit is too hasty.


Nomura analysts estimate the lockdown areas account for about 19.3% of China’s total gross domestic product, equivalent to the size of India’s economy, but down from 25.1% last Monday.

This marks the first drop in the China closing index closely watched by Nomura since early October.

Meanwhile, officials continue to downplay the dangers posed by the virus, bringing China closer to what other countries have been saying for more than a year when they removed restrictions and chose to live with the virus, even as it spread.

China’s disease management may be downgraded as early as January to the less stringent Category B from the current higher-tier Category A of infectious diseases. Reuters reported on Monday.

“The most difficult period has passed,” the official Xinhua news agency said in a comment on Monday, citing the weakening of the pathogenicity of the virus and efforts to vaccinate 90% of the population.

Analysts predict that China may reopen the economy and remove border controls sooner than expected next year, with some seeing it fully open in the spring.

But more than half of Chinese say they will. postpone travel abroad even if the borders were reopened now, according to a survey of 4,000 consumers by consultancy Oliver Wyman.

But for all those who are wary of returning to normality, there are others who cry out for more freedoms.

“Let’s implement these policies quickly,” a Beijing-based lawyer surnamed Li wrote on WeChat, reacting to the removal of testing requirements.

“Our lives and our work have been affected for so long.”

Reporting by Ryan Woo, Martin Quin Pollard, Bernard Orr, Sophie Yu, and the Beijing newsroom; Written by John Geddie and Greg Torode; Edited by Simon Cameron-Moore and Edmund Klamann

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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