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Chinese cities ease curbs but full zero-COVID exit seen some way off

More Chinese cities including Urumqi in the far west announced an easing of coronavirus curbs on Sunday as China tries to make its zero-COVID policy more targeted and less onerous after unprecedented protests against restrictions last weekend.


Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region and where the protests first erupted, will reopen malls, markets, restaurants and other venues from Monday, authorities said, ending strict lockdowns after months.


There was no sign of any significant unrest this weekend, although police were out in force in the Liangmaqiao area of Beijing and in Shanghai around Wulumuqi Road, which is named after Urumqi. Both sites saw protests a week ago.


A deadly fire last month in Urumqi sparked dozens of protests against COVID curbs in over 20 cities after some social media users said victims had been unable to escape the blaze because their apartment building was locked down. Authorities denied that.


The protests were an unprecedented show of civil disobedience in mainland China since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012.


In the days since, numerous cities have announced the easing of lockdowns, testing requirements, and quarantine rules.


Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, who oversees COVID efforts, said last week the ability of the virus to cause disease was weakening – a change in messaging that aligns with what many health authorities around the world have said for more than a year.


China is set to further announce a nationwide easing of testing requirements as well as allowing positive cases and close contacts to isolate at home under certain conditions, people familiar with the matter told Reuters last week.


Source: Tap News Agency