December 5, 2022 | 1:32 p.m
BEIJING – Business reopening and testing requirements were eased in Beijing and other Chinese cities on Monday as the country tentatively backed away from a strict zero-COVID policy that sparked nationwide protests.
Local authorities across China have begun to slowly reverse the restrictions that have ruled daily life for years, emboldened by central government orders for a new approach to fighting the coronavirus.
In the capital Beijing, where many shops have fully reopened, commuters no longer had to show a negative virus test within 48 hours to use public transport from Monday.
The financial hub of Shanghai – which underwent a brutal two-month lockdown this year – was subject to the same rules, with residents able to enter outdoor venues such as parks and tourist attractions without a recent test.
Neighboring Hangzhou went a step further, ending regular mass testing for its 10 million people, excluding those living in or attending nursing homes, schools and kindergartens.
In the northwest city of Urumqi, where a fire that killed 10 people became the catalyst for the latest anti-lockdown protests, supermarkets, hotels, restaurants and ski resorts reopened on Monday.
The city of more than four million people in the far western Xinjiang region experienced one of China’s longest lockdowns, with some areas closed from August to November.
Authorities in Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected in late 2019, and Shandong abolished public transport testing on Sunday.
And Zhengzhou — home to the world’s largest iPhone factory — said Sunday people are allowed to enter public places, use public transportation and enter their condominiums without a negative 48-hour test result.
The World Health Organization has hailed China’s relaxation of its zero-COVID policy, which came after hundreds took to the streets across the country to demand more political freedoms and an end to lockdowns.
While some COVID rules have been relaxed, China’s vast security apparatus has quickly scrambled to stifle further rallies and ramp up online censorship and surveillance of the populace.
And as officials have dismantled testing facilities, long lines have formed around those that remain, forcing residents to wait in frigid temperatures for tests that remain mandatory in much of China.
“Students can’t go to school without a 24-hour negative test,” wrote one user on China’s Twitter-like Weibo.
“What’s the point of closing test booths before the need to fully show test results is eliminated?” asked another.
Chinese authorities reported 29,724 new domestic COVID cases on Monday.