Some Chinese cities relax COVID testing mandates

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BEIJING — Several Chinese cities have scrapped or relaxed their COVID-19 testing mandates after China emerged from its worst regional outbreaks, with officials told not to cause too much disruption to people’s lives while staying vigilant about the virus.

China, whose economy has been hit hard by various COVID restrictions during March to May including a lockdown in Shanghai, faces high stakes to prevent another major outbreak.

It has demanded big cities and ports of entry to boost testing capacity to make sure they can detect the highly transmissible Omicron variant as early as possible.

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While cities such as Beijing and Shanghai that still have sporadic cases require citizens to test every few days, concerns have grown that frequent testing, if widely adopted across China, may result in huge financial burdens on local governments already squeezed by reduced revenue due to slower local economies and massive tax cuts to support businesses.

As of Thursday, mainland China had confirmed 225,434 cases with symptoms.

A national health official clarified earlier this month that areas without infections should not force residents to test regularly.

In the eastern province of Zhejiang, The cities of Ningbo and Hangzhou, close to Shanghai, said from Saturday the testing mandate for entering public venues and using public transport will require citizens to get tested once a week, rather than the more stringent once-in-three-day rule previously.

Zhejiang province reported less than 10 local infections in June.

In the eastern province of Anhui, which reported dozens of local cases in April and May but zero this month, the cities of Hefei and Huainan halted their regular testing campaigns earlier this week.

Dandong, a small northeastern Chinese town close to North Korea, said on Friday it removed some COVID restrictions for cargo trucks, as it started recently to ease a harsh lockdown imposed in late April that stirred anger on social media. (Reporting by Roxanne Liu and Ryan Woo; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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