BEIJING, Dec 2 (Reuters) – Some communities in Chinese cities where COVID-19 continues to spread are relaxing testing requirements and quarantine rules earlier than expected change in virus policies nationwide after widespread social unrest.
However, the uneven relaxation of COVID restrictions is raising fears among some residents who feel suddenly more exposed to a disease that authorities have described as consistently deadly until this week.
Pharmacies in Beijing say purchases of N95 masks, which offer a much higher degree of protection than the disposable surgical type, have increased this week. Some people wearing N95s on Friday said they got them from their employer.
Such precautionary behavior patient For businesses and factories facing consumers in major cities hit by COVID, who hope to stay virus-free until at least their employees return to their rural families for the Lunar New Year.
The elderly, many of whom are still unvaccinated, feel most vulnerable.
Shi Wei, a Beijing resident suffering from lymphatic cancer, spends most of her time in isolation, but still worries about contracting COVID and giving it to her 80-year-old mother, as she goes out for hospital treatment every three weeks.
“I can only pray for God’s protection,” she said.
China’s COVID policies have hit its economy, suffocating everything from domestic consumption to factory output to global supply chains, causing serious mental stress for hundreds of millions of people.
Anger at the world’s toughest curbs has fueled dozens of protests in more than 20 cities in recent days in an unprecedented display of civil disobedience in mainland China since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012.
Less than 24 hours after people clashed with riot police in white hazmat suits in Guangzhou, a sprawling manufacturing hub just north of Hong Kong, the city lifted lockdowns in at least seven of its counties. According to state media, some communities now require less frequent testing and allow close contacts of infected people to be quarantined at home.
But the uneven relaxation of rules in the city is causing other kinds of problems for city dwellers.
“I’m going on vacation tomorrow and had to look for a place to get tested for COVID because I still need a 48-hour code to get to the airport, but most of the testing stations have been removed,” said a diplomat from a foreign consulate. in Guangzhou.
Deputy Prime Minister Sun Chunlan, who is overseeing the COVID efforts, said this week that the virus’s ability to cause illness is weakening – a message that is in line with what health officials around the world have been saying for more than a year.
While government officials in cities lifting quarantines didn’t mention the protests in their announcements, national health officials said China would address “urgent concerns” expressed by the public.
China will announce nationwide relaxation Sources told Reuters they hope it will make enforcement of quarantine and testing requirements more uniform.
Sources familiar with the matter said the measures taken include reducing the use of mass testing and regular nucleic acid testing, as well as moves to allow positive cases and close contacts to be isolated at home under certain circumstances.
But on the ground, some communities in Beijing and elsewhere have allowed close contacts of people with the virus to be quarantined at home, while some malls in the capital have reopened from Thursday.
A residential district in eastern Beijing on Friday sent out a notice saying that those with “no social activities”, such as home-bound elderly and infants, no longer need to undergo regular testing “to reduce the risk of overcrowding”.
A test person said that several test booths in the area have stopped working and the number of tested ones has dropped by 20-30%. Still, the nearby park remained closed, while restaurants and cafes were only selling takeaway meals.
Earlier this year, even after just one positive case, entire communities were locked down, sometimes for weeks, with people stranded in their homes and losing their income, poor access to basic needs, and struggling to mentally cope with the isolation.
Dinner services have resumed in some areas in Guangzhou, and residents are no longer required to submit negative PCR tests to enter, state media reported.
Some people will be allowed to be quarantined at home in nearby Shenzhen. About a thousand kilometers to the west, in Chongqing, a wide variety of businesses, from barber shops to gyms, were allowed to reopen this week.
In Chengdu, Sichuan province, passengers no longer needed negative test results to board the bus or subway. In Jincheng, half the way from Beijing to Shanghai, people can now enter karaoke venues but still not eat inside restaurants.
At the same time, many communities in areas designated as high risk by various cities are in isolation and many people still have to undergo daily testing.
“The rising mood is not universal,” said the Guangzhou-based diplomat. “While many people are enjoying the new-found freedom, it’s worth noting that there are still hundreds of high-risk areas locked up all over the city.”
Additional reports from Beijing by Eduardo Baptista, Albee Zhang and Ryan Woo; Written by Marius Zaharia; Edited by Michael Perry
Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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