Chinese authorities announced a further reduction of COVID-19 restrictions on Saturday, removing the requirement for negative testing in major cities like Beijing and Shenzhen before using public transportation.
The slight relaxation of testing requirements follows weekend protests nationwide by citizens fed up with the strict enforcement of anti-virus restrictions that are now entering their fourth year even as the rest of the world has opened up.
This comes despite daily virus infections reaching nearly record high levels.
Shenzhen, a southern technological manufacturing hub, announced on Saturday that commuters are no longer required to present a clean COVID-19 test result to utilize public transportation or to attend pharmacies, parks, or other tourist sites.
Beijing, the capital, announced on Friday that starting on Monday, negative test results will also no longer be necessary for public transportation.
The entrance to places like shopping malls, which have progressively reopened with numerous restaurants and cafés offering takeout, still requires a negative result acquired within the previous 48 hours.
Some Beijing residents have complained about the need because they feel that most public places should not still require COVID-19 examinations, despite the city closing numerous testing locations.
Authorities stated that the “zero-COVID” plan, which aims to isolate every infected person, is still in force despite the relaxing measures.
Authorities in Beijing stated on Saturday that it is imperative to “unwaveringly continue to undertake standardized social prevention and control measures” due to COVID-19’s rapid proliferation.
The government reported 33,018 household infections in the last 24 hours, 29,085 of which had no symptoms.
China is the only major country that continues to adhere to a “zero-COVID” strategy as the rest of the world has learned to live with the virus.
Since the outbreak began, the approach has resulted in widespread testing and sudden lockdowns around the nation.
Even though the number of infections in China is tiny compared to its population of 1.4 billion, the country requires foreign visitors to stay in quarantine.
After a fire broke out in an apartment building in the northwest Chinese city of Urumqi on November 25, the most significant and widespread rallies in decades broke out. At least ten people were killed in the fire.
That sparked irate online comments about whether locked doors or other anti-virus measures prevented firemen or victims from fleeing.
Authorities refuted that, but the deaths represented the public’s ire.
A relaxing of COVID-19 limits was demanded throughout the country’s many days of protests in places like Shanghai and Beijing.
Some called for the resignation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, an astonishing display of popular discontent in a culture where the ruling Communist Party wields almost complete control.
Health experts and economists anticipate it to remain in place until mid-2023 and possibly into 2024 while millions of older people are immunized in anticipation of lifting controls that keep most visitors out of China, despite Xi’s government’s promises to reduce the cost and disruption of rules.
The government has admitted to making specific errors, mainly due to overzealous personnel, but criticizing their policies might lead to retaliation.
According to local media sources, former NBA star Jeremy Lin, who currently represents a Chinese team, was recently fined 10,000 yuan ($1,400) for disparaging the state of team quarantine facilities.
Dr. Michael Ryan, director of the World Health Organization’s emergency response, stated that the U.N. “It’s incredibly vital that governments listen to their people when the people are in agony,” the agency said about China’s decision to relax some of its coronavirus restrictions.