About a dozen cities across China have eased restrictions on COVID-19 following unprecedented protests last month, with Shanghai becoming the latest city to abandon public travel tests and Urumqi reopening bars and restaurants for the first time in months.
In China’s largest city, Shanghai, where protesters have called on President Xi Jinping to drop his “zero-COVID” policy, officials said Sunday that people will no longer need negative tests to use public transportation or enter public spaces. such as parks and tourism.
The easing also follows Beijing, Shenzhen, Chengdu and Tianjin, all of which ended public transport measures on Saturday.
In the southwestern city of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang region where anti-government protests began, authorities reopened gyms and shopping malls, and allowed restaurants to open their doors to diners. He also said that cinemas, gyms and parks will also be allowed to open gradually, with limits on the number of people allowed to enter the premises.
It was the death of 10 people in a fire at a semi-detached house in Urumqi that sparked the November protests. The city had been closed since August.
Some social media users at the time said the victims were unable to escape the fire due to COVID-19 restrictions, although the authorities denied this was the case.
The protests, which spread to more than 20 cities in China, were the first demonstrations of civil disobedience in the country since Xi took power in 2012. 19 curbs, according to the state-run Global Times tabloid, which officials described as part of “implementing measures to combat the epidemic “.
Wang Guangfa, an expert at Peking University’s First Hospital, told the tabloid that waste reduction should not be taken as a “total opening”.
“We have developed our epidemic control strategies in accordance with the nature of the different strains of the virus, establishing a new relationship between epidemic control and social and economic activities,” he said.
“It is unlikely that we will be able to get out of this epidemic in the short term this winter,” he said, noting that many countries are seeing an increase in temperatures due to cold weather.
Curbs rolled back
The measures to ease the restrictions of COVID-19 have changed so far in Chinese cities.
On Sunday, in the central city of Zhengzhou – home to the world’s largest iPhone plant, which was rocked by riots last month – officials said people would no longer have to show their COVID-19 test results to board public transport, taxis and tours. . “public space”. But even if karaoke bars, beauty salons, internet cafes and other indoor places are allowed to reopen, they must check the 48-hour test results for COVID.
Nanning, the capital of southern Guangxi, and Wuhan, the central city where the first cases of the new coronavirus appeared three years ago, also banned on Sunday the need for negative tests to take the metro.
Meanwhile, authorities in Guangzhou’s Haizhu district, which has seen violence last month, said on Sunday it was advising people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19 not to get tested for the virus unless they are in certain groups such as frontline workers.
Beijing on Saturday also abolished registration requirements for people who want to buy medicines for fever, cough and sore throat. The ban was imposed because the authorities believe that people are using the drug to hide the disease of COVID-19.
Authorities in various districts in the city have also recently announced that people infected with the virus can stay home.
Some inconsistencies as the restrictions are eased have angered the public, including the need in some places to test negative for COVID-19 even as most public testing centers were closing.
In Beijing and Wuhan, that led to long lines at the remaining test towers.
“Are they stupid or just sarcastic?” one social media user asked. “We don’t have to close the COVID testing center until we get rid of the COVID testing.”
The new daily toll has dropped to 31,824, officials said on Sunday, likely due to fewer people being tested. Officials also reported two more deaths from COVID-19.
Despite the easing of restrictions, many experts said China would not have reopened as early as March, given the need to increase vaccination coverage, especially among the elderly population.
Although 9 out of 10 Chinese have been vaccinated, only 66 percent of people over 80 have had one shot while 40 percent have received treatment, according to the National Health Commission. It said that 86 percent of people over the age of 60 are vaccinated.
Given these numbers and the fact that few Chinese have developed antibodies against the virus, some fear that millions could die if restrictions are lifted completely.
“Some people doubt the safety and efficacy of the country’s new coronavirus vaccine,” the state-run People’s Daily reported on Sunday.
“Experts say this idea is wrong,” it said, adding that homemade vaccines are safe.