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New China Covid rules raise concerns as some cities stop routine testing

New China Covid rules raise concerns as some cities stop routine testing
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  • Several cities no longer require routine COVID testing
  • China eased the prevention of various viruses last Friday
  • Communities worried about the spread of the virus under relaxed rules
  • Major cities, including Beijing, recorded a record for November 13

BEIJING, Nov 14 (Reuters) – Several Chinese cities began cutting routine community COVID-19 testing on Monday, days after China announced an easing of some of its heavy-handed coronavirus measures, sparking concern in some communities as cases rise nationwide.

In the northern city of Shijiazhuang, some families have expressed concern about their children’s exposure to the virus at school, citing toothaches or earaches as excuses for their children’s absences, according to social media posts after a state media report that the city will end testing. .

Other cities, including Yanji in the northeast and Hefei in the east, also said they would stop routine community COVID testing, according to official notices, ending a practice that has become a major financial burden for communities across China.

On Friday, the National Health Commission updated its COVID rules most significantly simplify So far, describing the changes as an “optimization” of its measures to soften the impact on people’s lives, even as China sticks to its zero-COVID policy nearly three years into the pandemic.

The move, which cut the quarantine period for cases and close contacts of inbound travelers by two days to a total of eight days, was applauded by investors, although many experts do not expect China to begin significant easing until March or April at the earliest.

The changes came even as several major cities, including Beijing, logged record infections on Monday, posing a challenge for authorities to quickly contain the outbreak while trying to minimize the impact on people’s lives and the economy.

Daily checks are required in some areas of Beijing.

Shijiazhuang’s anxiety and confusion were top-five trending topics on Twitter-like Weibo.

The city’s Communist Party chief, Zhang Chaochao, said the “optimization” of the prevention system should not be seen as authorities “lying flat” – an expression of inaction – or that Shijiazhuang is not moving towards “full liberation” from Covid control.

The city, about 295 kilometers (183 miles) southwest of Beijing, reported 544 infections for Sunday, with only three classified as symptomatic.

“I’m a little afraid. In the future, the public place will not look at nucleic acid testing, and the nucleic acid testing points will also be closed, everyone will have to pay for testing,” a Weibo user wrote, referring to Shijiazhuang.

Gavecal Research said in a note on Monday that it was “curious timing” for China to relax its Covid policies: “The combination of a severe outbreak and relaxation of central requirements has sparked debate over whether China is now gradually moving to a real policy. Tolerating Covid, ” it says.

Fresh Records

Nationwide, the National Health Commission reported 16,072 new locally infected cases, up from 14,761 on Sunday and the most in China since April 25, when Shanghai was battling an outbreak that put the city on lockdown for two months.

Beijing, Chongqing, Guangzhou and Zhengzhou all recorded their worst days so far, although the number in the capital city was in the hundreds, while other cities counted in the thousands.

The number of cases is low compared to infection levels in other countries, but China’s insistence on cleaning up the outbreak as it emerges under China’s zero-covid policy has greatly disrupted daily life and the economy.

Under the new rules unveiled Friday, individuals, neighborhoods and public spaces can still be subject to lockdown, but the health commission has relaxed some measures.

In addition to shortening quarantines, secondary close contacts are no longer identified and isolated—removing what was a major inconvenience for people stuck in contact-tracing efforts when a case is found.

Despite the easing of restrictions, many experts have described the measures as incremental, with some predicting that China is unlikely to begin reopening until after the March session of parliament at the earliest.

Analysts at Goldman Sachs said on Monday that rising cases and the continuation of zero-covid policies in cities including Guangzhou and Chongqing are leading to near-term economic risks.

Reporting by Liz Li, Jason Xu, Wang Jing and Ryan Wu; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Tony Munro and Emelia Sithole-Mataris

Our values: Thomson Reuters Trust Policy.

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