After backlash, Beijing drops COVID-19 vaccination mandate for crowded venues

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Beijing’s city government has dropped plans to allow only vaccinated people to enter crowded venues such as libraries, cinemas and gyms from Monday, following a strong online backlash to the measure announced earlier this week.

The mandatory requirement would have marked a rare move in China, where the central government insists on voluntary vaccination and has quickly overruled other attempts by front-line officials to issue compulsory vaccination directives.

Late on Thursday, a day after Beijing said it would introduce its vaccination requirement for anyone without a medical exemption, the state-backed Beijing Daily reported that the city government had ditched the plan.

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Citing an unnamed city official, the newspaper said that Beijingers would be able to enter public venues so long as they had proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours after a body temperature check.

Reacting on social media to Beijing’s initial attempt to enforce a mandate, an unvaccinated Beijing lawyer said he felt his “rights as a citizen were impaired” and that he has asked the city’s health authority for public disclosure of the internal decision-taking process.

“The rule was just ridiculous,” an unvaccinated Beijing theater goer, surnamed Zhang, told Reuters.

While the central government has not made vaccination mandatory, it has warned that the lower vaccination rate among the elderly was a weakness in China’s COVID-19 response.

And, the government does require certain employees to be vaccinated before they can take on certain jobs.

Many local governments have doled out vaccination incentives like shopping coupons to less vaccinated groups, and also pressured officials to hit vaccination targets.

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