China continues lifting Covid restrictions despite near-record case numbers


Covid-19 testing booths were removed in Beijing on Friday, while Shenzhen followed other cities in announcing it would no longer require commuters to present their test results to travel, as an easing of Covid restrictions in China gathered pace.

As daily cases hovered near all-time highs, some cities took steps to loosen coronavirus testing requirements and quarantine rules as China looks to make its zero-Covid policy more targeted amid an economic slowdown and public frustration that has boiled over into unrest.

Cities including Guangzhou and Beijing have taken the lead in making changes.

On Saturday, the southern city of Shenzhen announced it would no longer require people to show a negative Covid test result to use public transport or enter parks, after similar moves by Chengdu and Tianjin, among China’s biggest cities.

Many testing booths in Beijing were shut as the capital stopped demanding negative test results as a condition to enter places such as supermarkets. On Monday, this rule will apply to subways, although many other venues including offices still have the requirement.

A video showing workers in Beijing removing a testing booth by crane on to a truck went viral on Chinese social media on Friday.

Some Beijing neighbourhoods posted guidelines on social media on how positive cases can be quarantined at home, a landmark move that marks a break from official guidance to send such people to central quarantine.

China is set to announce a further nationwide reduction in testing requirements.

The country began tweaking its approach last month, urging localities to become more targeted.

A deadly apartment fire last month in the far-western city of Urumqi sparked dozens of protests against Covid curbs in a wave unprecedented in mainland China since the president, Xi Jinping, took power in 2012.

Xi, during a meeting with European Union officials in Beijing on Thursday, is said to have blamed the mass protests on youth frustrated by years of the pandemic, but said the now-dominant Omicron variant of the virus paved the way for fewer restrictions.



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