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China further relaxes COVID rules after protests

BEIJING (AFP) – Cities across China further unwound COVID restrictions yesterday, loosening testing and quarantine rules in the wake of nationwide protests calling for an end to lockdowns and greater political freedoms.

Anger and frustration with China’s hardline pandemic response spilled out onto the streets last weekend in widespread demonstrations not seen in decades.

In the wake of the unrest across China, a number of cities have begun loosening COVID restrictions, such as moving away from daily mass testing requirements, a tedious mainstay of life under Beijing’s stringent zero-COVID policy.

At the same time, authorities are continuing to seek to contain protests with heavy security on the streets, online censorship in full force, and surveillance of the population heightened.

As of yesterday, the southwestern metropolis of Chengdu will no longer require a recent negative test result to enter public places or ride the metro, instead only requiring a green health code confirming they have not travelled to a “high risk” area.

In Beijing, health authorities called on Thursday on hospitals not to deny treatment to people without a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours.

Many other cities with virus outbreaks are allowing restaurants, shopping malls and even schools to re-open, in a clear departure from previous tough lockdown rules.

Workers in protective suits look for the location of the lockdown residents to collect COVID samples in Beijing. PHOTO: AFP

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