BEIJING: More Chinese cities including Urumqi in the far west announced easing of coronavirus curbs on Sunday (Dec 4), as China tries to make its zero-COVID policy more targeted and less onerous after extraordinary protests against restrictions last weekend.
Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region and where the protests first broke out, will reopen shopping malls, markets, restaurants and other venues from Monday, authorities said, after strict lockdowns that had lasted months.
There was little sign of significant unrest this weekend, although police were out in force in the Liangmaqiao area of Beijing and in Shanghai around Wulumuqi Road, which is named after Urumqi. Both sites saw protests a week ago.
A deadly apartment fire last month in Urumqi had sparked dozens of protests against COVID curbs in more than 20 cities, a show of civil disobediance unprecedented in mainland China since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012.
In recent days, numerous cities have announced easings of lockdowns, testing requirements, and quarantine rules.
China is set to further announce a nationwide easing of testing requirements as well as allowing positive cases and close contacts to isolate at home under certain conditions, people familiar with the matter told Reuters last week.
Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, who oversees COVID efforts, said last week the ability of the virus to cause disease was weakening – a change in messaging that aligns with what health authorities around the world have said for more than a year.
Easing measures have varied across the country.
On Sunday, the city of Nanning, capital of the southern region of Guangxi, cancelled the requirement for a negative COVID test within 72 hours to take the subway.
On Saturday in Beijing, local authorities said purchasing fever, cough and sore throat medicines no longer requires real name registration. That followed on from local-level announcements in recent days in the capital that those who test positive for the virus could quarantine at home.
In Beijing and Wuhan, people expressed frustration over the weekend because recent negative tests were still required for entry into a number of venues, despite the mass closing of COVID-19 testing booths, causing lengthy queues at those few still open.
“Are they stupid or just plain mean?” a Weibo user posted on Sunday. “We shouldn’t shut down COVID testing stations until we get rid of the COVID test pass.”
New daily case numbers dropped nationwide to 31,824, authorities said on Sunday, which may be due in part to fewer people being tested due to loosening curbs. China on Sunday reported two new deaths from the virus.