China's Xinjiang relaxes some COVID-19 regulations

Beijing: After a deadly fire in the city that was blamed on virus control sparked protests across the country, China's western Xinjiang region on Monday loosened some COVID-19 restrictions in the region's capital Urumqi.

Officials announced at a press conference on Monday that from Tuesday residents of the city of four million people, some of whom have been locked in their homes for days, will be able to take buses to work in their home districts.

While public transport and flights "will resume in an orderly manner", officials said a day earlier, some essential businesses in "low-risk" areas may also apply to resume operations at 50% capacity .

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At least 10 people were killed in a fire at a residential building in Urumqi on Thursday night. As a result, this past weekend, protests broke out in several Chinese cities against China's strict zero-tolerance COVID-19 policy.

The COVID-19 lockdown in Urumqi was criticized by many social media users as hindering rescue operations, but officials have said that private vehicles hindered firefighters.

Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, on Monday lambasted "forces with ulterior motives" for linking the fires to COVID-19.

In response to the demonstrations, however, officials announced on Saturday that the city had "reduced social transmission to practically zero" and that they would "return to the normal course of life for residents in low-risk areas in a phased and systematic manner". Will restore from."

Urumqi's parcel delivery services will also resume, but logistics workers will have to stay in a "closed loop" in corporate housing, according to officials at a press conference on Monday.

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As the public grows weary of sudden lockdowns, prolonged quarantines and massive testing campaigns, China's relentless zero-COVID-19 push has stoked protests and hurt productivity in the world's second-largest economy.

Beijing announced a series of new rules earlier this month that eased quarantine requirements for entry and simplified a system for designating high-risk areas, signaling a departure from the strategy.

But as the number of cases in the country surged past 30,000 in recent days and hit a record high, authorities have instead dug in their heels, even locking down significant parts of China's capital. Gave.

Over the weekend, thousands of people rallied in cities and college campuses across the country to protest the zero COVID-19 policy.

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The Beijing city government announced on Sunday afternoon that it would not allow residential areas to be closed abruptly for more than 24 hours.

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