Relief and worry as major Chinese cities ease COVID curbs

  • The easing comes after a week of historic protests.
  • The sanctions have hit the world’s second-largest economy.
  • Nationwide easing measures expected soon – sources

BEIJING, Dec 2 (Reuters) – Further 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 of people were exposed to the national virus after mass social distancing. Looking forward to the expected change in policies. Unrest

The loosening measures were welcomed by workers frustrated by three years of economically damaging restrictions, but shocked others who suddenly feel more exposed to a disease that authorities had until this week consistently described as deadly.

The elderly, many of whom have not yet been immunized, feel most vulnerable.

Beijing resident Shi Wei, who suffers from lymphatic cancer, spends most of his time in isolation, but still worries about getting Covid and passing it on to his 80-year-old mother as she visits the hospital every three weeks for treatment. goes out

“I can only pray that God will protect me.” They said.

China’s COVID policies have stifled everything from domestic consumption to factory output and the global supply chain, putting enormous stress on millions of people.

Anger over the world’s toughest restrictions has fueled dozens of protests in more than 20 cities in recent days, the most civil disobedience seen in mainland China since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012.

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

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

He said that in the last few years the revenue has decreased by 30% as a result of the lockdown constraints.

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

Vice Prime Minister Sun Chunlan, who oversees the Covid effort, said this week that the virus’ ability to cause disease is weakening — a message that health officials around the world have been saying for more than a year. Is.

On Friday, some neighborhoods in the capital Beijing posted on social media guidelines on how positive cases can be quarantined at home, in a major move.

This contrasts with the chaotic scenes earlier this year when cases were frantically dumped into central facilities while their communities were placed on lockdown, sometimes for weeks. Last month, the simplified rules only required the lockdown of certain buildings.

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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 similar measures expected to be rolled out across the country in the coming days. .

Sources familiar with the matter told Reuters earlier this week that China is poised to announce a nationwide cutback in how it will conduct mass testing and regular nucleic acid tests, as well as positive cases and close contacts. will be allowed to isolate at home under certain conditions.

Chengdu and Tianjin, among China’s largest cities, announced they would not require subway users to show a negative COVID test starting Friday, in a move to curb the spread of the virus in crowded public places. Another relaxation. Beijing will end the requirement on Monday.

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

A residential community in eastern Beijing sent out a notice on Friday that people with “no social activities,” such as the elderly at home and infants, are no longer required to undergo regular tests.

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

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Earlier in the year, entire communities were locked down after just one positive case, leaving people stranded indoors, deprived of income, poor access to basic needs, and struggling to cope with isolation. were

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

The city also ended the rule that only people with a negative COVID test could buy fever medicine over the counter, a policy aimed at preventing 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, businesses ranging from barbershops to gyms have been allowed to reopen.

But many communities that have been identified as high-risk by various cities are under lockdown and many people still need to be tested daily.

“The better mood is not universal,” said a Guangzhou-based diplomat. “Although many people are enjoying the new freedom, it is worth noting that there are still hundreds of high-risk zones that are closed 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 Brussell, William Maclean

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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