More Chinese cities relax curbs in expansion of COVID-19 policy shift

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More Chinese provincial capitals relaxed COVID-19 restrictions as authorities expand a policy shift toward reopening the economy after anti-lockdown protests erupted across the country.

Kunming, in the southwestern province of Yunnan, will effective Sunday allow people to ride public transport without showing a PCR test, while Nanning in the neighboring Guangxi region scrapped such testing requirements for all public venues except hotels and tourist destinations.

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In Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang in the northeast, test results are no longer required to enter public places, while people leaving the city only need to take one PCR test within 48 hours instead of two, the local government said late Saturday.

The regional centers join first-tier cities including Beijing, Shenzhen and Guangzhou that partially eased such curbs in the past few days. Top government officials in the past week have signaled a transition away from the harshest containment measures, which have weighed on the economy and triggered anti-lockdown protests as public discontent grew.

China reported 30,889 new local COVID-19 cases on Saturday, down from 32,206 the day before, according to the latest official data.

While the easing measures in cities can’t be interpreted as China abandoning its COVID-19 Zero policy yet, “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-19 control in the meantime,” Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s chief China economist Hui Shan and colleagues wrote in a note Sunday.

Experiences in Hong Kong and Taiwan showed that new cases will skyrocket upon reopening, with mobility declining sharply, they wrote. Goldman Sachs’ base case scenario suggests China’s COVID-19 Zero policy will stay until April to allow for preparations, according to the note.

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Beijing, Shenzhen loosen more COVID-19 curbs as China fine-tunes policy

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