BEIJING (AP) – Chinese authorities yesterday announced a further easing of COVID-19 curbs with major cities such as Shenzhen and Beijing no longer requiring negative tests to take public transport.
The slight relaxation of testing requirements comes even as daily virus infections reach near-record highs. The southern technological manufacturing centre of Shenzhen said yesterday that commuters no longer need to show a negative COVID-19 test result to use public transport or when entering pharmacies, parks and tourist attractions. Meanwhile, the capital Beijing said on Friday that negative test results are also no longer required for public transport from tomorrow.
However, a negative result obtained within the past 48 hours is still required to enter venues like shopping malls, which have gradually re-opened with many restaurants and eateries providing takeout services.
As the rest of the world has learned to live with the virus, China remains the only major nation still sticking to a “zero-COVID” strategy which aims to isolate every infected person.
The policy, which has been in place since the pandemic started, led to snap lockdowns and mass testing across the country. China still imposes mandatory quarantine for incoming travellers even as its infection numbers are low compared to its 1.4 billion population.
Xi’s government has promised to reduce the cost and disruption of controls but said it will stick with “zero COVID”.
Health experts and economists expect it to stay in place at least until mid-2023 and possibly into 2024 while millions of older people are vaccinated in preparation for lifting controls that keep most visitors out of China.