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Beijing, Shenzhen loosen more Covid restrictions as China speeds up easing

Beijing, Shenzhen loosen more Covid restrictions as China speeds up easing
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Epidemic control workers conducting nucleic acid tests wear protective suits while riding a scooter on an almost empty street in Beijing, China, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Kevin Frayer | Getty Images News | fake images

Beijing residents applauded the removal of Covid-19 testing booths, while Shenzhen followed other cities in announcing it will no longer require travelers to present their test results to travel as the relaxation of lockdowns accelerates. virus restrictions in China.

Though daily cases hover around all-time highs, some cities are taking steps to ease Covid-19 testing requirements and quarantine rules as China looks to make its zero-Covid policy more specific amid an economic slowdown. and public frustration that has turned into malaise. .

Three years into the pandemic, China has been a global outlier with its zero-tolerance approach to Covid that has seen it impose lockdowns and frequent virus testing. He says the measures are necessary to save lives and avoid overwhelming his healthcare system.

China began to tweak its approach last month, urging localities to be more specific. However, initial reactions were marked by confusion and even stricter lockdowns as cities struggled to control the surge in cases.

Then a deadly apartment fire last month in the far western city of Urumqi sparked dozens of protests against Covid restrictions in a wave unprecedented in mainland China since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012. Since then, cities like Guangzhou and Beijing have taken the lead in making changes. .

Less tests

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

Many test booths have also been closed in the Chinese capital of Beijing, as the city stops requiring negative test results as a condition for entering places like supermarkets and prepares to do so for the subway starting Monday, though many other places, including offices, still have the requirement.

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

“This should have been removed sooner!” said one commenter. “Banished to history,” said another.

Reuters was unable to verify the authenticity of the images. However, in some of the remaining booths, residents complained of hour-long queues for tests due to the closures.

more reductions are coming

China is ready to announce a nationwide reduction in testing requirements, as well as allowing positive cases and close contacts to isolate at home under certain conditions, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters earlier this week.

Xi, during a meeting with European Union 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 virus variant paved the way for fewer restrictions, EU officials. he said.

Officials recently began downplaying the dangers of Omicron, a significant change in messaging in a country where fear of Covid runs deep.

On Friday, some Beijing neighborhoods posted guidelines on social media about how positive cases can be quarantined at home, a landmark move that marks a break from official guidance for sending those people to a central quarantine.

Still, the relief was also accompanied by concerns, especially from groups like the elderly who feel more at risk of a disease that authorities had consistently described as deadly until this week, highlighting the difficulties Xi and Chinese leaders face in chill out.

China reported 32,827 new local Covid-19 infections for December 2. 2, compared to 34,772 the day before.

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