New China Covid rules spur concern as some cities halt routine tests. Here's why
Covid In China: In the northern city of Shijiazhuang, some families expressed concern about exposing their children to the virus at school.
Several Chinese cities began cutting routine community COVID-19 testing on Monday, days after China announced an easing of some of its heavy-handed coronavirus measures, sparking worry in some communities as nationwide cases continued to rise.
In the northern city of Shijiazhuang, some families expressed concern about exposing their children to the virus at school, giving excuses such as toothaches or earaches for their children's absence, according to social media posts following a state media report that testing in the city would end.
Other cities, including Yanji in the northeast and Hefei in the east, also said they will stop routine community COVID testing, according to official notices, halting a practice that has become a major fiscal burden for communities across China.
On Friday, the National Health Commission updated its COVID rules in the most significant easing of curbs yet, describing the changes as an "optimisation" of its measures to soften the impact on people's lives, even as China sticks to its zero-COVID policy nearly three years into the pandemic.
The move, which cut quarantine times for close contacts of cases and inbound travellers by two days, to eight days total, was applauded by investors, even though many experts don't expect China to begin significant easing until March or April at the earliest.
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The changes come even as several major cities including Beijing logged record infections on Monday, posing a challenge for authorities scrambling to quell outbreaks quickly while trying to minimise the impact on people's lives and the economy.
Some areas of Beijing are requiring daily tests.
The concern and confusion in Shijiazhuang was a top-five trending topic on the Twitter-like Weibo.
The city's Communist Party chief, Zhang Chaochao, said its "optimisation" of prevention measures should not be seen as authorities "lying flat" - an expression for inaction - nor is Shijiazhuang moving towards "full liberation" from COVID curbs.
The city, about 295 kms (183 miles) southwest of Beijing, reported 544 infections for Sunday, only three of which it categorised as symptomatic.