China reopens after historic zero-Covid protests: ‘Most difficult period has passed’

The Independent
The Independent

China is stripping down its Covid restrictions for millions as it allowed people to enter supermarkets, offices and airports without showing negative test results on Tuesday.

Several news headlines in China confirmed the country’s limp back to normalcy after it was rocked by historic protests last month against the Xi Jingping regime as frustration among millions spilled onto the streets. The country also recorded daily cases peaking to 40,000 during its pandemic-worst.

“Beijing readies itself for life again,” read a headline in the state-owned China Daily newspaper as it claimed that people were “gradually embracing” the slow return to a life without Covid outbreak.

"The most difficult period has passed," said the official Xinhua news agency in a commentary published late on Monday. The report backed China’s return to normalcy due to weakening pathogenicity of the virus and its attempt to administer vaccination to at least 90 per cent of the population.

Officials have said that people will not be required to show a negative Covid result for using subways, among loosening of several curbs — some of the harshest globally — signalling indication from the administration towards normalcy three years into the pandemic.

A total of 27,847 single-day infections were recorded on Tuesday, China’s National Health Commission said. Many remained suspicious of the reliability of the daily tally, according to reports.

Hu Dongxu, 27, swiped his travel card to enter a train station and welcomed the move. "This might be the first step towards reopening from this pandemic," he told Reuters.

From Tuesday onwards, people will no longer be required to undergo Covid tests to enter the city airport’s terminal.

It is not immediately clear if people are still asked to show negative covid tests prior to boarding.

Additionally, China may roll out 10 new additional measures to ease Covid curbs nationally as early as Wednesday.

China was rocked by protests in November-end against crippling restrictions — which locals say prevented swift firefighting operations in Xinjiang leading to death of 10, at the same time it saw high caseload, alarming some residents who are still exercising caution.

For 22-year-old student James Liu in the southern province of Guangdong, there is a reason to observe Covid safety protocols after authorities "abruptly" dropped testing requirements for entry into the family’s residential compound.

“My parents are still very cautious,” he said.

The health officials are also bracing from a Covid outbreak among the frontline medical staff and migrant workers returning home during the lunar new year holiday, worrying that another surge could strain the already burdened healthcare system overwhelmed by the virus.

China has recorded a total of 5,235 Covid deaths so far but experts are warning that the toll could shoot past 1 million if the exit from virus curbs is too speedy.

Analysts have also predicted that China may reopen the economy and drop border controls sooner than expected next year, with some seeing it fully open in spring.

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