China eases COVID rules in some areas after protests

China protesters
AP/Ng Han Guan
Protesters hold candles as they march in Beijing, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022. Protesters angered by strict anti-virus measures called for China’s powerful leader to resign, an unprecedented rebuke as authorities in at least eight cities struggled to suppress demonstrations Sunday that represent a rare direct challenge to the ruling Communist Party. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

China eased some COVID-19 restrictions on Monday after a long weekend of protests against the country’s “zero-COVID” policy, which morphed into one of the largest opposition movements to the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) party in decades.

In Beijing, city government officials announced they would no longer block access to apartments where infected residents live.

That policy sparked the protests after a deadly fire broke out in northwest China’s Xinjiang region last week and killed 10 people. Fire engines were reportedly blocked from getting to the apartment fire because of pandemic barriers.

In the city of Urumqi, where the fire broke out, authorities said public bus services would resume and some businesses and markets would open.

In the port city Guangzhou, officials said they would no longer require citizens to undergo mass testing, which they claimed was because of a lack of resources.

China’s zero-COVID strategy had kept infections from spiraling out of control but has led to a wave of resentment against the restrictions, which can keep some residents in lockdown for months at a time.

The protests, which spread to at least eight cities, were the first direct challenge to the rule of Chinese President Xi Jinping in decades, with some calling for the country’s leader to step down.

Despite some easing, the CCP’s strategy is still in effect. China’s National Health Commission sent teams to local cities to supervise the implementation of COVID-19 policies, according to the state-run newspaper The Global Times.

China has more than 9 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 30,000 deaths from the novel coronavirus, according to a World Health Organization tracker.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tags China China China protests Chinese Communist Party COVID-19 restrictions Xi Jinping zero COVID
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