December 5, 2022

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China's new rules on COVID are causing concern as some cities have suspended routine testing

China’s new rules on COVID are causing concern as some cities have suspended routine testing

  • Regular COVID testing is no longer required in many cities
  • China eased various virus restrictions last Friday
  • Communities worried about the spread of the virus under relaxed rules
  • Major cities including Beijing reported record cases on November 13

BEIJING, November 14 (Reuters) – Several Chinese cities began halting routine COVID-19 testing on Monday, days after China announced the easing of some of its strict coronavirus measures, sparking concern in some communities as continued Cases are rising nationwide.

In the northern city of Shijiazhuang, some families have expressed concern about exposing their children to the virus at school, making excuses such as toothaches or earaches for their children’s absence, according to social media posts following an official media report that tests in the city will end. .

Other cities, including Yanji in the northeast and Hefei in the east, said they would stop routine community COVID testing, according to official notices, halting a practice that has become a major financial burden on communities across China.

On Friday, the National Health Commission updated its COVID rules in the most significant easing of restrictions to date, calling the changes an “improvement” of its measures to ease the impact on people’s lives, even as China sticks to its nearly COVID-free policy. Three years into the epidemic.

Investors applauded the move, which cut quarantine times for close contacts of cases and incoming travelers by two days, to eight days in total, although many experts do not expect China to begin a major easing until March or April at the earliest.

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The changes come as several major cities including Beijing reported a record number of infections on Monday, challenging authorities scrambling to quickly quell the outbreak while trying to minimize the impact on people’s lives and the economy.

Some areas of Beijing require daily tests.

Anxiety and confusion in Shijiazhuang were among the top five trending topics on Twitter-like Weibo.

The city’s Communist Party chief, Zhang Zhaoxo, said its “improvement” of prevention measures should not be seen as authorities “lying” – an expression of inaction – nor moving Shijiazhuang toward “complete liberalization” from COVID restrictions.

The city, located 295 kilometers (183 miles) southwest of Beijing, recorded 544 infections on Sunday, only three of which were classified as symptoms.

Referring to Shijiazhuang, one Weibo user wrote, “I’m a little scared. In the future, public places will not consider DNA tests, DNA test points will also be closed, and everyone needs to pay for tests.”

Gavekal Research said in a note Monday that it was a “curious timing” for China to relax its COVID-related policies: I tolerate COVID.

fresh records

Nationwide, the National Health Commission reported 16,072 new locally transmitted cases, up from 14,761 on Sunday and the largest in China since April 25, when Shanghai was battling an outbreak that shut down the city for two months.

Beijing, Chongqing, Guangzhou and Zhengzhou recorded their worst days so far, although the number in the capital was a few hundred cases, while other cities counted in the thousands.

Case numbers are small compared to infection levels in other countries, but China’s insistence on stamping out the outbreak as soon as it emerged as part of its COVID-free policy has been widely disruptive to daily life and the economy.

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Under the new rules unveiled Friday, individuals, neighborhoods and public places can still be subject to lockdown, but the health commission has relaxed some measures.

In addition to shortening quarantine periods, nearby secondary contacts are no longer identified and isolated – removing what had been a major inconvenience to people caught up in contact tracing efforts when a case is detected.

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

Analysts at Goldman Sachs said Monday that rising cases in cities including Guangzhou and Chongqing and the continuing policy of no-spreading of the coronavirus pose economic risks in the near term.

Additional reporting by Liz Lee, Jason Xiu, Wang Jing and Ryan Wu; Editing by Simon Cameron Moore, Tony Munro and Emilia Sithole Mataris

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.