New China COVID rules spur concern as some cities halt routine tests

  • Regular covid testing is no longer required in several cities
  • China eased various virus restrictions last Friday
  • Communities worried about the spread of the virus under relaxed rules
  • Major cities, including Beijing, reported recorded cases for November 13

BEIJING, Nov 14 (Reuters) – Several Chinese cities began scaling back routine community testing for Covid-19 on Monday, days after China announced an easing of some of its strict coronavirus measures, as cases continue to rise. The countrywide outbreak has raised concerns in some communities.

In the northern city of Shijiazhuang, some families expressed concern about their children being exposed to the virus at school, citing toothaches or earaches as excuses for absences, according to social media posts after state media reported that the city had ended testing. Their children presented. .

Other cities, including Yanji in the northeast and Hefei in the east, also announced they would stop routine Covid testing, according to official announcements, ending a practice that has become a major financial burden for communities across China.

On Friday, the National Health Commission updated Covid rules in the most significant easing of restrictions, describing the changes as “optimizing” its measures to reduce the impact on people’s lives, even as China is sticking to its zero-covid policies. Three years after the pandemic

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The move, which cut the quarantine period for close contacts of the infected and incoming travelers by two days to a total of eight days, was cheered by investors, although many experts do not expect China to begin a significant reduction until March or April. slow

The changes come even as several major cities, including Beijing, hit record pollution levels on Monday, posing a challenge for officials trying to quickly contain the outbreak while trying to minimize its impact. They are on people’s lives and economy.

Some areas of Beijing require daily testing.

Concern and confusion in Shijiazhuang was one of the top five trending topics on Twitter-like Weibo.

The city’s Communist Party chief, Zhang Chaochao, said the “optimization” of its preventive measures should not be seen as “straightforward lying down” by authorities – a term for inaction – and that Shijiazhuang is not moving towards “complete liberation” from Covid restrictions.

The city, about 295 kilometers (183 miles) southwest of Beijing, reported 544 infections for Sunday, only three of which it classified as symptomatic.

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Referring to Shijiazhuang, one Weibo user wrote: “I’m a little afraid. In the future, public places will not look at nucleic acid tests, and nucleic acid test points will also be closed, everyone will have to pay for the tests.”

Gavekal Research said in a note on Monday that it was a “curious time” for China to ease its COVID policies: “The combination of the escalation of the outbreak and the easing of central requirements has led to debate over whether China is now gradually moving towards a pragmatic policy. , has been. Tolerating Covid.”

New records

Nationwide, 16,072 new local transmission cases were reported by the National Health Commission, up from 14,761 on Sunday and the most in China since April 25, when Shanghai was battling an outbreak that put the city on lockdown for two months. , Increased.

Beijing, Chongqing, Guangzhou and Zhengzhou all recorded their worst days ever, although the capital had a few hundred cases, while other cities reached thousands.

The number of cases is low compared to infection levels in other countries, but China’s insistence on cleaning up epidemics as soon as they emerge under its zero-covid policy has been widely disruptive to daily life and the economy.

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Under the new rules unveiled on Friday, people, neighborhoods and public spaces can still be quarantined, but the health commission eased some of the measures.

In addition to shortening the quarantine, secondary close contacts will no longer be identified and quarantined — a loss for people who were involved in contact tracing efforts when they found a case.

Despite the easing of restrictions, many experts described the measures as incremental, with some predicting that China is unlikely to begin reopening at the earliest until after the March session of parliament.

Goldman Sachs analysts said on Monday that rising cases in cities including Guangzhou and Chongqing and continued zero-covid policies pose short-term economic risks.

Reporting by Liz Lee, Jason Shue, Wang Jing and Ryan Wu. Edited by Simon Cameron Moore, Tony Munro and Emelia Sithole Mataris

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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