Monday, January 30, 2023

Beijing prepares for ‘life again’ as lockdowns lift across China

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BEIJING: China’s capital Beijing dropped the need for people to show negative COVID tests to enter supermarkets and offices on Tuesday, the latest in an easing of curbs across the country following last month’s historic protests.

“Beijing readies itself for life again” read a headline in the government-owned China Daily newspaper, adding that people were “gradually embracing” the slow return to normality.

Further loosening beckons after a string of demonstrations last month that marked the biggest show of public discontent in mainland China since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012.

“This might be the first step towards reopening from this pandemic,” Beijing resident Hu Dongxu, 27, told Reuters as he swiped his travel card to enter a train station in the capital, which has also dropped the need for tests to ride the subway.

The shift comes as top officials softened their tone on the severity of the virus, bringing China closer to what other countries have been saying for more than a year as they dropped restrictions and opted to live with the virus.

Read more: CHINESE CITIES EASE CURBS BUT FULL ZERO-COVID EXIT SEEN SOME WAY OFF

China may announce 10 new nationwide easing measures as early as Wednesday, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters, as cities across the country have been lifting localised lockdowns.

That has sparked optimism among investors for a broader reopening of the world’s second biggest economy that could boost global growth.

But despite reassurances from authorities, commuter traffic in major cities such as Beijing and Chongqing remains at a fraction of previous levels.

Some people remain wary of catching the virus, especially the elderly, many of whom remain unvaccinated, while there is also concern about the strain the loosening could put on China’s fragile health system.

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