Chinese cities relax testing rules as zero-Covid policy eases

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As the country tentatively eases out of a strict zero-Covid policy that sparked nationwide protests, businesses reopened and testing requirements were relaxed on Monday in Beijing and other cities.

Encouraged by the central government’s orders for a novel strategy to combat the coronavirus, local authorities across China have begun a gradual rollback of the restrictions that have governed daily life for years.

On Monday, commuters in Beijing, the capital, no longer needed to show that they had a virus test that came back negative within 48 hours to use public transportation. Many businesses have now fully reopened.

Monetary center point Shanghai — which went through a ruthless two-month lockdown this year — was under similar standards, with occupants ready to enter open air settings like parks and vacation spots without a new test.

With the exception of those who reside in or visit nursing homes, schools, or kindergartens, the neighboring city of Hangzhou went one step further and discontinued routine mass testing for its 10 million residents.

On Monday, supermarkets, hotels, restaurants, and ski resorts reopened in the northwestern city of Urumqi, where a fire that killed ten people sparked the recent anti-lockdown protests.

One of China’s longest lockdowns took place in the city of over four million people in the western Xinjiang region, with some areas closed from August to November.

On Sunday, authorities in Shandong province and the central city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected in late 2019, eliminated the requirement for public transportation testing.

In addition, Zhengzhou, the location of the largest iPhone factory in the world, announced on Sunday that individuals would not require a negative test result for 48 hours to enter residential areas, public places, or public transportation.

Dialing it down

As measures have been eased, the tone of the Chinese state media, which had previously focused on highlighting the dangers posed by Covid-19, has changed.

An unidentified health expert argued, as reported by authoritative business news outlet Yicai on Sunday, that authorities should relax virus regulations.

The expert stated, “Most infected people are asymptomatic… and the fatality rate is very low.”

Infectious diseases are categorized by the central National Health Commission (NHC) of China according to their fatality and infectiousness.

It has been managing Covid-19 under Category A protocols since January 2020, giving local governments the authority to impose snap lockdowns and quarantine patients and their close contacts.

The expert advised Yicai that approach was now “obviously not in line with science” in light of the shifting circumstances, calling for a “downgrade.”

After hundreds of people took to the streets across the country to demand greater political freedoms and an end to lockdowns, the World Health Organization has applauded China’s loosening of its zero-Covid policy.

Although some Covid-19 regulations have been relaxed, China’s vast security apparatus has swiftly suppressed additional rallies, increasing online censorship and population surveillance.

Additionally, as testing facilities have been dismantled by authorities, residents have been forced to wait in frigid temperatures to take the tests, which are still required in a significant portion of China.

On China’s Weibo, which is similar to Twitter, a user wrote, “Students can’t go to school without a 24 hour negative test.”

“Why bother in shutting testing stalls prior to dropping the need to show test results totally?” Another inquired.

29,724 brand-new domestic cases of Covid-19 were reported by Chinese authorities on Monday.

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