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China ease out COVID-19 restrictions after protests

China’s spokesperson censors himself after zero Covid question

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China has reportedly eased the restrictions on Covid after the country witnessed protests over the toughest curbs, a news report has stated. On Wednesday, China reported 36,061 cases of COVID-19, a slight drop from Tuesday’s 37,828.

However, even with relatively high numbers, some areas have begun to ease restrictions.

Overseeing the rise in the numbers, Vice Premier Sun Chunlan claimed that the country is entering a “new stage and mission”, an indication of the government’s changing approach after mass protests against its zero-Covid policy.

The state media, Xinhua, reported that she said: “The country is facing a new situation and new tasks in epidemic prevention and control as the pathogenicity of the Omicron virus weakens, more people are vaccinated and experience in containing the virus is accumulated.”

Ms Sun also urged further “optimisation” of testing, treatment and quarantine policies.

She was hearing from a roundtable of health experts, who Xinhua said praised China’s efforts before offering suggestions on “improving” current measures.

She said China was also taking a more “humane approach” with its outbreak responses.

Ms Sun, like the health officials who addressed the country on Tuesday, did not refer to the “dynamic zero Covid” policy by name, instead emphasising vaccination and other measures.

The past week saw several days of protests at a scale not seen in China for decades, as mounting frustrations with the zero-Covid policy coalesced into anger and grief after the deaths of 10 people in a building fire in Urumqi, Xinjiang.

The protests have also coincided with the death of former Chinese leader, Jiang Zemin.

National health officials said this week authorities would respond to “urgent concerns” raised by the public and that Covid rules should be implemented more flexibly, according to a region’s conditions.

Expectations have grown around the world that China, while still trying to contain infections, could look to re-open at some point next year once it achieves better vaccination rates among its elderly.

Health experts warn of widespread illness and death if COVID-19 is let loose before vaccination is ramped up.

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Chinese stocks and markets around the world dipped initially after the weekend protests in Shanghai, Beijing and other cities, but later recovered on hopes that public pressure could lead to a new approach by authorities.

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