Businesses reopened and testing requirements were relaxed in Beijing and other Chinese cities yesterday as the nation tentatively eased out of a strict “zero COVID-19” policy that sparked nationwide protests.
Local authorities across China have begun a slow rollback of the restrictions that have governed daily life for years, encouraged by the central government’s orders for a new approach to fighting the coronavirus.
In the capital, Beijing, where many businesses have fully reopened, commuters yesterday were no longer required to show a negative virus test taken within 48 hours to use public transport.
Financial hub Shanghai — which underwent a brutal two-month lockdown this year — extended this measure to most public places except medical institutions, schools, restaurants and bars, nursing homes and indoor entertainment venues, starting from today.
The city had already exempted parks and tourist attractions from the testing requirement a day earlier, and what the latest rule change encompassed was unclear.
Neighboring Hangzhou ended regular mass testing for its 10 million people, except those living in or visiting nursing homes, schools and kindergartens.
The testing requirement for public transport had been scrapped on Sunday in the central city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected in late 2019, as well as in Shandong Province.
Zhengzhou — home to the world’s largest iPhone factory — on Sunday said that people would be allowed to enter public places, take public transport and enter their residential compounds without a 48-hour negative test result, too.
However, as officials have dismantled testing facilities, long lines have appeared around those that remain, forcing residents to wait in cold temperatures to get tests that remain obligatory across much of China.
“Students can’t go to school without a 24-hour negative test,” a Sina Weibo user wrote.
“What’s the point in closing testing booths before dropping the need to show test results completely?” another asked.
In the northwestern city of Urumqi, where a fire that killed 10 people became the catalyst for the recent anti-lockdown protests, supermarkets, hotels, restaurants and ski resorts reopened yesterday.
The city of more than 4 million in Xinjiang endured one of China’s longest lockdowns, with some areas shut from August until last month.
The demonstrations last week were the largest in decades as public anger at prolonged virus restrictions boiled over, with many university campuses involved.
China’s vast security apparatus has moved swiftly to smother the rallies, deploying a heavy police presence while boosting online censorship and surveillance of the population, but sporadic localized clashes have continued to flare up.
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