Health rules are being relaxed in several Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, a week after historic angry protests.
Businesses reopen and fewer requirements for PCR tests: Health rules are being relaxed in more Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, after a week of historic angry demonstrations.
In the capital of 22 million people, many shops reopened this weekend, and residents could use public transport again on Monday without presenting a negative PCR test result less than 48 hours later. The same move in Shanghai also removes the obligation to access certain public spaces, such as parks and tourist attractions.
The financial enclave, home to 25 million people, was heavily restricted for more than two months in the spring after an outbreak of Covid cases, a highly unpopular move that also affected the country’s economy.
Demonstrations against covid zero
A week ago, months of simmering anger against a strict “zero Covid” policy erupted in a dozen Chinese cities with demonstrations on a scale unprecedented since Tiananmen’s pro-democracy rallies in 1989.
In practice for nearly three years, the policy has disrupted the daily lives of residents with repeated confinements and large-scale PCR tests in 2022 almost every day.
The demonstrations, particularly led by students, soon took a political turn, with some calling for President Xi Jinping to step down. In response, authorities have begun to ease restrictions, a move praised by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Chinese president himself admitted that the less dangerous Omicron variant was. “Opens the way for greater flexibility in regulation”According to Statement by European Council President Charles MichelA European official said he visited Beijing last week.
Last month, China unveiled a list of measures aimed at “improving” its health policy and reducing its socio-economic impact, but their application at the local level has been highly variable.
Although the Chinese economy is set to record its worst growth in four decades this year, getting out of “zero Covid” is a delicate process.
“Finding a balance between Covid-19 containment measures and economic growth has again become a central issue”According to economist Wang Xie, commenting on Monday’s poor activity figures in services. “The central government has recently issued clear requirements on how to further improve (the health policy). But the manner in which local authorities will or will not use these instructions will be decisive..
The rooms were cleared
Near Shanghai, the city of Hangzhou has announced an end to large-scale PCR testing — the norm in almost all countries — except for those in contact with retirement homes, schools and daycares.
In Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi (northwest) – where a deadly fire sparked national protests, health restrictions were blamed for hampering relief – supermarkets, hotels, restaurants and ski resorts reopened on Monday. The city of four million people has been hit by one of the nation’s longest lockdowns, in place since early August.
In Wuhan (center), where the first cases of Covid-19 were detected in December 2019, and Shandong province (east), requiring negative PCR tests from passengers on public transport has also stopped.
In Zhengzhou (central), authorities have lifted the testing requirement for public spaces and transportation and residential buildings.
Although many testing rooms have been cleared in recent days, long queues have been seen this weekend, particularly in Beijing and Shenzhen (south), where tests are still required.
Students cannot attend school without a 24-hour negative testunderlined a user on the Weibo social network, a kind of Chinese Twitter. “So what’s the point of closing checkpoints without eliminating testing requirements everywhere?”
The number of cases fell to 29,724 on Monday, mostly asymptomatic, a small number compared to China’s population (1.4 billion).
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