Beijing, Shenzhen loosen more Covid borders as China eases pace

Beijing, Shenzhen loosen more Covid borders as China eases pace
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Outbreak control workers performing nucleic acid tests wear protective suits to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as they ride a scooter on a nearly empty street in Beijing, China. (Photo: Kevin Fryer/Getty Images)

Kevin Fryer | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Residents of Beijing have welcomed the dismantling of Covid-19 testing booths, while Shenzhen has followed other cities in announcing that it will not require passengers to present test results for travel as China eases the pace of its fight against the virus.

Even as daily cases hit an all-time high, some cities are taking steps to relax Covid-19 testing requirements and quarantine rules as China seeks to make its zero-Covid policy more targeted amid an economic slowdown and public frustration that has turned into unrest. .

Three years into the pandemic, China has become a global leader with its zero-tolerance approach to Covid, which has seen it impose lockdowns and frequent virus testing. He says measures are needed to save lives and not overwhelm the health care system.

China began changing its approach last month, calling for more domestic targeting. However, initial reactions were marked by confusion and even tighter lockdowns as cities scrambled to keep a lid on the growing cases.

A deadly apartment fire in the far western city of Urumqi last month sparked dozens of protests against Covid restrictions in mainland China in a wave not seen since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012. Since then, cities including Guangzhou and Beijing have taken the lead in making changes. .

less testing

The southern city of Shenzhen announced on Saturday that it would not require people to show a negative Covid test result to use public transport or enter parks, following similar moves by Chengdu and Tianjin, among China’s largest cities.

Many testing booths in China’s capital, Beijing, have also been closed as the city stops requiring negative test results as a condition to enter places like supermarkets and plans to do so for subways on Monday, though offices in many other locations remain open. demand.

A video appeared on Chinese social media on Friday showing workers lifting a test cabin onto a truck with a crane in Beijing.

“It should have been taken earlier!” said one commenter. “Hit the date,” said another.

Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the footage. In some of the remaining booths, residents complained about the nearly hour-long queues for tests due to the closure.

Additional discounts are coming

Earlier this week, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that China was preparing to announce a nationwide easing of testing requirements, as well as allowing positive cases and close contacts to be isolated at home under certain conditions.

Xi, during a meeting with European Union officials in Beijing on Thursday, blamed mass protests by young people frustrated by the Covid-19 pandemic for years, but said the currently dominant Omicron variant of the virus has led to fewer restrictions, EU officials said.

Officials recently began downplaying the dangers of Omicron, a significant shift in messaging in a country where fears of Covid have deepened.

On Friday, some Beijing neighborhoods posted instructions on social media on how to quarantine positive cases at home, a landmark move that broke away from official guidance to send such people to central quarantine.

Still, the relief came with concerns, particularly from groups such as the elderly, who are more vulnerable to a disease that authorities until this week described as consistently deadly, underscoring the challenges Xi and China’s leaders have faced in easing it.

China reported 32,827 new local Covid-19 infections for December. 2, down from 34,772 a day earlier.

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