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China Fine-Tunes COVID Policy As Beijing, Shenzhen Loosen More Curbs

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China Fine-Tunes COVID Policy As Beijing, Shenzhen Loosen More Curbs

(CTN NEWS) – On Saturday, as a softening of China’s virus limitations gained momentum, Beijing citizens applauded the removal of COVID-19 testing booths while Shenzhen announced commuters would no longer need to produce test results to fly.

Even though the number of cases per day is almost at an all-time high, some cities are taking action to relax COVID testing requirements.

And quarantine laws as China looks to target its zero-COVID policy in the face of a severe economic slowdown and mounting public resentment that has reached a boiling point.

Following similar actions by Chengdu and Tianjin, the southern city of Shenzhen stated that it will no longer require anyone to present a negative COVID test result to utilize public transportation or attend parks.

As Beijing stops requiring negative test results as a prerequisite for entry to venues like supermarkets and gets ready to do so for subways starting on Monday, many testing booths have been closed.

Many other places, such as offices, still need examination.

On Friday, a video of employees in Beijing loading a testing booth onto a truck using a crane quickly became popular on Chinese social media.

One commenter said, “This ought to have been removed sooner!” Another person added, “Banned to history.”

Reuters could not immediately confirm the footage’s veracity. However, locals complained about hour-long lines for the tests at some of the booths that were still open due to the shutdown.

China Fine-Tunes COVID Policy As Beijing, Shenzhen Loosen More Curbs

Security personnel in protective suits stand at the gate of a residential compound under lockdown as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreaks continue in Beijing, October 22, 2022. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

OUTLIER IN CHINA

The country has been a global outlier with a zero-tolerance policy of lockdowns and frequent testing three years after COVID first appeared in central China.

According to the authorities, the measures are necessary to save lives and prevent overtaxing China’s healthcare system.

China started adjusting its strategy last month and urged municipalities to become more focused.

However, initial reactions were characterized by confusion and increasingly tighter lockdowns as communities fought to contain the mounting number of cases.

Then, a fatal apartment fire that occurred last month in the remote western city of Urumqi ignited protests against COVID limitations that were unheard of in mainland China since President Xi Jinping assumed office in 2012.

According to demonstrators and social media posts, authorities detained numerous protesters.

And police in cities like Shanghai have been searching commuters’ phones for apps or virtual private network software that protesters used for communication.

As officials worked to prevent any potential escalation of the turmoil from the previous weekend, police maintained a significant presence in the area of the Liangmaqiao crossroads in east Beijing on Saturday.

On the streets surrounding Shanghai’s Wulumuqi Road, named after Urumqi and the location of a vigil for the victims of the fire that erupted into protests last weekend, a sizable police presence could be observed.

China Fine-Tunes COVID Policy As Beijing, Shenzhen Loosen More Curbs

Shenzhen announced it would no longer require people to use public transport to show a negative COVID test result.

ADDITIONAL REDUCTIONS COMING

According to persons who spoke to Reuters this week, China may soon announce a nationwide relaxation of testing criteria and the possibility of positive cases.

And close contacts to remain quarantined at home under specific circumstances.

Xi blamed the large-scale protests on youth who were fed up with the pandemic after years of it during a meeting with European Union representatives on Thursday in Beijing, according to EU officials.

However, Xi claimed that the now-dominant Omicron variant of the virus had paved the way for fewer restrictions.

In a nation where COVID fear is widespread, officials have just recently started to downplay the dangers of Omicron, signaling a dramatic shift in message.

In a historic step that departs from official advice to submit positive cases to central quarantine, some Beijing neighborhoods released directions on how to quarantine at home on social media on Friday.

However, worries have also accompanied the relief, particularly from those who feel more vulnerable to the illness.

According to many observers, a big reopening is still not expected until at least beyond March since China must first see success with a recently initiated vaccination campaign aimed at the elderly.

The number of deaths China would experience if it switches to a complete reopening has been estimated to be between 1.3 million and over 2 million.

However, other studies claim that the death toll could be significantly lower if there was a focus on vaccination.

“All of this should not be seen as a fundamental departure from the zero-COVID strategy but rather as an effort to make it more efficient and affordable.

The objective is still to reduce instances to nearly zero,” In a note, Capital Economics referred to the most recent adjustment of policy.

The alternative, they claimed, would result in a higher mortality rate than in many Asian nations that reopened sooner, undercutting China’s success in achieving zero COVID.

“The alternative would result in letting the virus spread widely before more old people are vaccinated, and healthcare capacity has been scaled up,” they added.

On Saturday, China recorded 32,827 daily local COVID-19 infections, down from 34,772 the previous day. China reported 331,952 symptomatic cases and 5,233 fatal COVID cases as of Friday.

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