Beijing, Shenzhen loosen more COVID-19 curbs as China easing gathers pace

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Beijing residents cheered the removal of COVID-19 testing booths while Shenzhen followed other cities in announcing it would no longer require commuters to present their test results to travel, as an easing of China’s virus curbs gathered pace.

Although daily cases hover near all-time highs, some cities are taking steps to loosen COVID-19 testing requirements and quarantine rules as China looks to make its zero-COVID-19 policy more targeted amid an economic slowdown and public frustration that has boiled over into unrest.

Three years into the pandemic, China has been a global outlier with its zero-tolerance approach towards COVID-19 which has seen it enforce lockdowns and frequent virus testing. It says the measures are needed to save lives and avoid overwhelming its healthcare system.

China began tweaking its approach last month, urging localities to become more targeted. Initial reactions, however, were marked with confusion and even tighter lockdowns as cities scrambled to keep a lid on rising cases.

Then a deadly apartment fire last month in the far western city of Urumqi sparked dozens of protests against COVID-19 curbs in a wave unprecedented in mainland China since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012. Cities including Guangzhou and Beijing have since taken the lead in making changes.

On Saturday, the southern city of Shenzhen announced it would no longer require people to show a negative COVID-19 test result to use public transport or enter parks, following similar moves by Chengdu and Tianjin, among China’s biggest cities.