Chinese authorities have eased some anti-virus rules but affirmed their severe “zero Covid” strategy after wide protests in several cities of the country.
The government has made no comment on the protests, but Monday's decision to ease at least some of the restrictions appeared to be aimed at quelling anger. Still, analysts don’t expect the government to back down on its Covid strategy.
The city government of Beijing announced on Monday it would no longer set up gates to block access to apartment compounds where infections are found.
“Passages must remain clear for medical transportation, emergency escapes and rescues,” said a city official in charge of epidemic control, Wang Daguang, according to the official China News Service.
In addition, the southern manufacturing and trade metropolis of Guangzhou, the biggest hotspot in China’s latest wave of infections, announced some residents will no longer be required to undergo mass testing. It cited a need to conserve resources.
Urumqi and another city in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in the northwest announced markets and other businesses in areas deemed at low risk of infection would reopen this week and public bus service would resume.
“Zero Covid,” which aims to isolate every infected person, has helped to keep China’s case numbers lower than those of the United States and other major countries.
But it has confined millions of people to their homes for up to four months, and some have complained about a lack of reliable food and medical supplies.
The ruling party promised last month to reduce disruption by changing quarantine and other rules. But public acceptance is wearing thin after a spike in infections prompted cities to tighten controls.
On Monday, the number of new daily cases rose to 40,347, including 36,525 with no symptoms.
The ruling party newspaper People’s Daily called for its anti-virus strategy to be carried out effectively.
“Facts have fully proved that each version of the prevention and control plan has withstood the test of practice,” a People’s Daily commentator wrote.
Protests spread to at least eight major cities. Most protesters complained about excessive restrictions. Hours after police broke up the demonstration, people returned to the same spot on Sunday for another protest.