As broader easing beckons, Beijing reduces the requirement for Covid testing


The latest in a series of easing measures taken throughout China following the historic protests that took place last month saw people in Beijing, the country’s capital, permitted to enter parks, supermarkets, offices, and airports without presenting evidence of a negative Covid-19 test on Tuesday.

The headline of the China Daily newspaper, which is owned by the government, read, “Beijing prepares itself for life again.” It also said that people were “gradually embracing” their newfound freedoms.

Three years into the pandemic, authorities have been easing some of the strictest Covid-19 restrictions in the world to varying degrees and easing their stance on the virus’s threat. Many believe this could signal a more pronounced return to normalcy.

As he swiped his travel card to enter a Beijing train station that no longer requires tests to ride the subway, 27-year-old Hu Dongxu told Reuters, “This might be the first step towards reopening from this pandemic.”

State media reported on Tuesday that people no longer have to take a test to enter the terminal at either of the city’s airports. However, there was no indication that the rules requiring passengers to present negative tests prior to boarding had changed.

However, following a series of protests last month, which represented the largest display of public discontent in mainland China since President Xi Jinping assumed power in 2012, further loosening is expected.

Two people who are familiar with the situation told Reuters that China may announce ten new national easing measures as early as Wednesday.

Investors have expressed optimism that the second-biggest economy would regain strength and contribute to global growth in light of the possibility of further rule relaxations.

In anticipation of a possible reopening of China’s economy, the Chinese yuan has increased by approximately 5% against the dollar since the beginning of November.

However, many people have been slow to adjust to the new rules on the ground. In major cities like Beijing and Chongqing, commuter traffic has remained at a fraction of normal levels.

While there is concern regarding the strain that the loosening could place on China’s fragile health system, some people, particularly the elderly, continue to be wary of contracting the virus.

James Liu, 22, a student in Shenzhen in the southern province of Guangdong, said, “My parents are still very cautious.” Authorities “abruptly” dropped the testing requirements for entry into the family’s residential compound.

As of Monday, China had reported 5,235 Covid-related deaths, but some experts have cautioned that the number could surpass one million if the exit is made too quickly.

Next phase

Nomura analysts believe that the areas currently under lockdown account for 19.3 percent of China’s total GDP, which is the size of India’s economy but is down from 25.1 percent on Monday.

This denotes the principal decrease in Nomura’s firmly watched China Coronavirus lockdown file starting from the beginning of October.

China is now closer to what other nations have been saying for more than a year: that they have dropped restrictions and chosen to live with the virus. Meanwhile, officials continue to downplay the risks posed by the virus.

Tong Zhaohui, head of the Beijing Organization of Respiratory Infections, said on Monday that the most recent Omicron variation of the sickness had caused fewer instances of serious ailment than the 2009 worldwide flu flare-up, as indicated by Chinese state TV.

Reuters exclusively reported on Monday that China’s management of the disease may be downgraded to the less stringent Category B from the current top-level Category A of infectious disease.

In a commentary that was published late on Monday, the official Xinhua news agency said, “The most difficult period has passed.” It cited the virus’s decreasing pathogenicity and efforts to vaccinate 90% of the population.

Hu Xijin, a well-known commentator and the former editor-in-chief of the state-run tabloid Global Times, demanded that additional measures be taken to allow citizens to freely move throughout the nation.

In a blog post published on Monday, he stated, “The general direction for the return to normal life is already very clear, and it is essential to restore the free movement of people across provinces to restore the economy.”

Some analysts now anticipate that China’s economy will reopen in the spring and that border controls will be lifted earlier than anticipated next year.

However, a survey of 4,000 Chinese consumers conducted by consultancy Oliver Wyman found that even if borders reopen tomorrow, more than half of Chinese say they will delay traveling abroad.

However, in addition to those who are wary of returning to normalcy, there are also those who demand more freedoms.

In response to Tuesday’s announcement of the reduction in the capital’s testing requirements, a Beijing-based lawyer with the surname Li wrote on WeChat, “Let’s implement these policies quickly.”

“For so long, our lives and work have been affected,”

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