China’s financial hub of Shanghai will start rolling back some testing requirements in the country from December 5. The move came as spontaneous protests broke out in multiple Chinese cities over pandemic restrictions.

According to Bloomberg News, Shanghai residents will no longer need to show negative COVID tests to use public transport or enter outdoor venues such as parks. 

This year, the city’s several-month closure harmed domestic economic activity and its more than 23 million population.

In a statement, the Shanghai government stated that it would continue “optimizing and adjusting” Covid regulations in accordance with the central government’s policies and the pandemic’s developments.

Police were present in the Liangmaqiao area of Beijing and Shanghai around Wulumuqi Road, where protests broke out a week ago. There was no sign of unrest on the weekend of December 3 and 4.

A deadly fire late last month in Urumqi prompted protests in multiple cities across China. The incident raised angry questions about whether the COVID lockdown impeded residents’ escape. 

The Chinese vice-premier, Sun Chunlan, said last week, “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.” This was a shift in tone that allowed steps towards easing restrictions in some cities.
The easing measures can’t be interpreted as China abandoning its ‘zero COVID’ policy. Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s chief China economist Hui Shan and colleagues wrote in a note on December 4, “we see them as clear evidence of the Chinese government preparing for an exit and trying to minimize the economic and social cost of Covid control in the meantime.”

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