Dec 3, 2022 - World

China begins loosening COVID restrictions after massive protests

People wait in a long queue to be tested for Covid-19 coronavirus.

People wait in a long queue to be tested for COVID-19 in Beijing on December 3, 2022. Photo: Jade GAO/AFP via Getty Images

China has begun lifting some of its COVID-19 restrictions even as the country's "zero COVID" policy remains.

Why it matters: The loosening restrictions come shortly after stunning and rare nationwide protests erupted in late November as the Chinese government decided to stick with the zero-COVID policies.

Driving the news: Major Chinese cities like Shenzhen and Beijing announced Saturday they would no longer require a negative COVID-19 test in order for residents to ride on public transportation, AP reports.

  • In Shenzhen, residents will no longer need to show their negative test results before using public transit or when entering a pharmacy.
  • It's similar in Beijing, though a negative test obtained within the last 48 hours is still needed to visit shopping centers, per AP.
  • Other communities are allowing close contacts of infected people to interact and quarantine at home rather than in a separate location, Reuters reports.

Yes, but: The restrictions are loosening, but China's "zero-COVID" policy remains intact.

Zoom out: Public concern over new COVID-19 lockdown restrictions fueled protests in China with many demanding lifted restrictions and Chinese President Xi Jinping's resignation, Axios reports.

  • President Xi reportedly acknowledged the ongoing protests, saying they were mostly students who were upset over COVID quarantines, per CNN.
  • A European Union official told CNN that Xi believes the Omicron variant "is less deadly than Delta," and that the Chinese government feels "more open to further relaxing Covid restrictions."

More from Axios:

China's COVID storm

China maintains zero-COVID despite unprecedented protests

China entering "new stage" of COVID response, senior official says

China's COVID frustration boils over, protestors call for Xi to resign

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