Relief and concern as China’s major cities ease Covid containment

Relief and concern as China's major cities ease Covid containment
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  • The relaxation comes after weeks of historic protests
  • The restrictions have hit the world’s second-largest economy
  • Nationwide easing measures expected soon – sources

BEIJING, Dec 2 (Reuters) – Easing of COVID-19 testing requirements and quarantine rules in some Chinese cities was met with a mix of relief and anxiety on Friday, as millions await the expected changes. In the National Virus Policy After widespread social unrest.

The easing measures were welcomed by workers frustrated by three years of economically damaging bans but rattled others who felt suddenly exposed to a disease authorities described as consistently deadly until this week.

The elderly, many of whom are still unvaccinated, are most vulnerable.

Shi Wei, a Beijing resident with lymphatic cancer, spends most of her time in isolation, but still worries about getting Covid and giving it to her 80-year-old mother when she goes out for hospital treatment every three weeks.

“I can only pray that God saves me,” he said.

China’s covid policies have crippled everything from domestic consumption to factory output and global supply chains, and put millions of people under severe stress.

Anger has flared over the world’s toughest ban Dozens of protests More than 20 cities in recent days have seen demonstrations of civil disobedience unprecedented in mainland China since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012.

Less than 24 hours after people clashed with white hazmat-suited riot police in Guangzhou, a sprawling manufacturing hub just north of Hong Kong, on Tuesday, the city lifted lockdowns in at least seven of its districts.

“Finally, we can slowly return to our normal lives,” said Lily, 41, who works for a chain restaurant in Guangzhou that was allowed to reopen on Thursday.

Income has fallen by 30% in the past few years due to lockdown disruptions, he said.

“The public couldn’t take it anymore, and everyone wished we could reopen… The Guangzhou government probably heard what we wanted and thought it was time,” Lilly said.

Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, who has spearheaded the Covid effort, said this week that the virus’ ability to cause disease is weakening — a message consistent with what health authorities around the world have been saying for more than a year.

On Friday, some neighborhoods in the capital, Beijing, posted social media guidelines on how to get positive cases Quarantine at homeIn a groundbreaking move.

That contrasts with scenes of chaos earlier this year when cases were casually thrown into centralized facilities while their communities were put under lockdown, sometimes for weeks. Last month, the simplified rules only required the lockdown of certain buildings.

Back to the barber

Some communities also now require less frequent testing and are allowing close contacts of infected people to quarantine at home, according to state media, with measures expected to be rolled out nationwide in the coming days.

China is set to announce a nationwide reduction in how often mass testing and routine nucleic acid tests will be conducted, and to allow home isolation of positive cases and close contacts under certain circumstances, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters earlier this week.

Chengdu and Tianjin, among China’s largest cities, announced they would no longer require subway users to show a negative COVID test starting Friday, another relaxation of a ban imposed to stop the spread of the virus in crowded public spaces. Beijing will drop this requirement from Monday.

Some supermarkets in Beijing also stopped demanding negative test results as a condition of entry on Friday.

A residential community in east Beijing sent out a notice on Friday that those with “no social activity,” such as housebound elderly and children, do not need to be tested regularly.

Several testing booths in the area have stopped functioning and the number of people being tested has dropped by up to 30%, a staff member said. Still, the nearby park was closed, while restaurants and cafes only sold takeaways.

Earlier in the year, entire communities were locked down after just one positive case, with people stuck indoors losing income, poor access to basic necessities and struggling to combat isolation.

Some areas in Guangzhou have resumed pay-in services, and residents are no longer required to present a negative PCR test for entry, state media reported.

The city also repealed a rule that only people with a negative COVID test could buy fever medicine over the counter, a policy intended to prevent people with COVID from hiding their illness.

In nearby Shenzhen, some people will be allowed to quarantine at home. About 1,000 kilometers to the west, in Chongqing, a range of businesses from barbershops to gyms have been allowed to reopen.

But many communities designated high risk by various cities are under lockdown and many people still have to undergo daily tests.

“The elevated mood is not universal,” said a Guangzhou-based diplomat. “While many people are enjoying their new-found freedom, it’s worth noting that there are still hundreds of high-risk areas that remain locked down across the city.”

Additional reporting by Eduardo Baptista, Albie Zhang, Ryan Wu and Beijing Newsroom; Written by Marius Zaharia and John Geddy; Edited by Michael Perry, Robert Birsell, William Maclean

Our values: Thomson Reuters Trust Policy.

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