Several Chinese cities further eased draconian anti-Covid rules on Friday, following historic protests in recent days to demand an end to restrictions and more freedoms.
The anger and frustration of the Chinese with regard to the hard line health in the fight against the pandemic had overflowed in the streets last weekend, a mobilization of an unprecedented scale for decades.
China reacted quickly to stifle the movement, with a heavy police presence on the streets and increased surveillance of social networks.
At the same time, several cities have begun to ease restrictions, such as abandoning mass daily testing, a tedious pillar of life under “zero-Covid”.
This did not prevent sporadic scuffles.
Images published Thursday evening on the internet and geolocated by AFP show dozens of people facing agents in full protective suits in front of a middle school in Yicheng, in the province of Hubei (center).
According to the person who posted the video, these are parents whose children tested positive and were taken to quarantine facilities.
In the images, we see people coming to blows and parents kneeling, pleading to be able to bring their children home.
Anyone who tests positive in China must in theory be placed in a quarantine center, with variable comfort. But a radical change in doctrine seems to be currently at work.
In an analysis published Friday by the People’s Daily, organ of the ruling Communist Party, several medical experts support the measures taken by certain local authorities to allow this quarantine to be carried out at home.
Officials from some neighborhoods in Beijing’s Chaoyang district said the measure is now being applied in their area.
The industrial city of Dongguan (south) announced Thursday that people meeting “specific conditions” will be able to quarantine at home – without specifying what these conditions are.
The technology megalopolis of Shenzhen (south) has applied a similar policy since Wednesday.
At the national level, members of the government have also signaled that a broader relaxation of the policy could be envisaged.
Speaking to the Ministry of Health on Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Sun Chunlan acknowledged the low risk of Omicron variants and the improvement in the vaccination rate, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency.
That’s why China’s approach to the virus is “facing new circumstances”, she said.
A central figure in China’s strategy in the face of the pandemic, Ms Sun did not mention the term “zero Covid”, raising hopes that this strategy, which has been disrupting the lives of Chinese people and the national economy for three years, will soon be relaxed. .
From Monday, Beijingers will again be able to take the bus and subway without having to present a negative PCR test result dating back less than 48 hours, the town hall announced on Friday.
Users will however have to continue to present a health pass to the green, confirming that they have not crossed a “high risk” zone.
The same measure has been in place since Friday in Chengdu (southwest).
Hotels and restaurants
Still in Beijing, health authorities on Thursday called on hospitals to stop refusing care in the absence of a PCR test within 48 hours.
China has seen a series of deaths, when care or relief has been delayed by strict anti-Covid measures.
In January, a pregnant woman in Xi’an (north) had lost her baby, after the hospital refused to take care of her for lack of a valid PCR test.
These deaths have been a rallying cry during the protests, with a post going viral listing the cases of all those who have died due to neglect related to health restrictions.
Many other cities, however affected by an upsurge in coronavirus cases, are now allowing the reopening of restaurants, shopping centers and even schools, thus clearly deviating from the confinement rules which have prevailed so far.
In the city of Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang region (northwest), where a fatal fire had triggered the first demonstrations, the authorities announced on Friday that supermarkets, hotels, restaurants and ski resorts would be gradually reopened.
This city of more than four million people has suffered one of the longest lockdowns in China, with some neighborhoods closed in early August.
The fire in an apartment building on November 26 killed 10 people there. The restrictions have been blamed for delaying relief.