China to Stop Welding Homes Shut as Covid Precaution After Protests

China to Stop Welding Homes Shut as Covid Precaution After Protests

China reported over 25,000 new cases of covid-19 and zero deaths on Wednesday.

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A man scans his health code at the entrance of a supermarket on December 6, 2022 in Beijing,  China.
A man scans his health code at the entrance of a supermarket on December 6, 2022 in Beijing, China.
Photo: Zhang Yu/China News Service (Getty Images)

China announced on Wednesday the country’s strictest covid-19 rules will be lifted, allowing more freedom of movement for people who are living under some of the harshest health regulations in the world three years after the start of the pandemic.

The new guidelines, published by China’s National Health Commission, explicitly ban the blocking of fire exits and doors—a reference to the most notorious of China’s draconian rules that saw some homes welded shut by local health officials to prevent people from leaving, according to the BBC.

Chinese citizens who test positive for covid-19 but have either mild or no symptoms will no longer be required to stay in government-run isolation camps, according to the Health Commission. Previously, even people with asymptomatic cases were not allowed to isolate at home.

The new rules will mean that lockdowns will also be imposed in a more targeted manner, with certain buildings or floors locked down rather than entire neighborhoods or cities, according to the BBC. So-called “high risk” areas will also be let out of lockdown after five days if no new cases are detected, rather than the months-long lockdowns that have occurred previously.

Testing for covid-19 will also move to a slightly more relaxed posture, with lateral flow tests replacing the more expensive PCR tests in most scenarios, according to the BBC. PCR tests, which the government is no longer providing for free, will still be required for entry to high-risk settings like nursing homes and hospitals.

The relaxed rules, while still harsh by the current standards of most countries, come after uncharacteristically high profile protests in recent weeks over the prolonged lockdowns endured in China. Workers at one of China’s largest iPhone manufacturing plants even staged violent demonstrations in disputes over covid restrictions and pay last month.

There were also protests following reports that people in the province of Xinjiang were unable to leave their homes, which had been welded shut, during a recent earthquake. At least ten people died, according to the South China Morning Post, prompting the protests, which are atypical in China. At least 300 people demonstrated in Shanghai after the tragedy.

As the BBC notes, there are certainly mixed feelings about the lockdowns in China. While many regular people are upset with the restrictions, the lockdowns are also seen by a certain segment of the population as necessary in many cases. And the strict measures have no doubt saved countless lives, despite massively infringing on the human rights of the country’s 1.4 billion people.

China reported 25,321 new cases of covid-19 on Wednesday, with roughly 80% of those cases being asymptomatic, according to China’s National Health Commission. The country reported no new deaths on Wednesday.

The U.S. government no longer provides daily case counts for covid-19, but the U.S. saw at least 48,000 new cases on Tuesday, according to the New York Times, and at least 481 new deaths from the disease.

Since the start of the pandemic, China has reported 349,938 symptomatic cases, not including asymptomatic cases, which the country doesn’t count in its total, and 5,235 deaths. The U.S., by contrast, has reported over 98.8 million cases and 1.09 million deaths since the pandemic began.

Click through the slideshow to see a snapshot of life in China right now—a country with plenty of people still wearing masks in indoor spaces, but where things like a negative covid test are no longer necessary to gather in shops and restaurants.

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Dining Out

Dining Out

Customers dine at a restaurant as Beijing no longer requires people to  show their negative nucleic acid testing results before entering public  places on December 6, 2022 in Beijing, China.
Customers dine at a restaurant as Beijing no longer requires people to show their negative nucleic acid testing results before entering public places on December 6, 2022 in Beijing, China.
Photo: Zhang Yu/China News Service (Getty Images)
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QR Codes

QR Codes

A QR code is seen at a subway station in Shanghai, China, December 7, 2022.
A QR code is seen at a subway station in Shanghai, China, December 7, 2022.
Photo: CFOTO/Future Publishing (Getty Images)
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Visiting the Museum

Visiting the Museum

People visiting the Suzuo Crafts Exhibition held at the Museum of  Wu in Suzhou City, east China’s Jiangsu Province, December 7, 2022.
People visiting the Suzuo Crafts Exhibition held at the Museum of Wu in Suzhou City, east China’s Jiangsu Province, December 7, 2022.
Photo: Imaginechina (AP)
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Wangfujing Street, Beijing

Wangfujing Street, Beijing

People walk along Wangfujing street as Beijing no longer requires people  to show their negative nucleic acid testing results before entering  public places on December 6, 2022 in Beijing, China.
People walk along Wangfujing street as Beijing no longer requires people to show their negative nucleic acid testing results before entering public places on December 6, 2022 in Beijing, China.
Photo: Zhao Jun/China News Service (Getty Images)
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Going to the Mall

Going to the Mall

Customers scan their health codes at the entrance of a shopping mall as  Beijing no longer requires people to show their negative nucleic acid  testing results before entering public places on December 6, 2022 in  Beijing, China.
Customers scan their health codes at the entrance of a shopping mall as Beijing no longer requires people to show their negative nucleic acid testing results before entering public places on December 6, 2022 in Beijing, China.
Photo: Zhao Jun/China News Service (Getty Images)
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Sorting Packages

Sorting Packages

As the Double 12 shopping carnival is coming, workers are busy sorting  express packages on the assembly line in the E-commerce Logistics  Industrial Park of Donghai County, Lianyungang City, east China’s  Jiangsu Province, December 7, 2022.
As the Double 12 shopping carnival is coming, workers are busy sorting express packages on the assembly line in the E-commerce Logistics Industrial Park of Donghai County, Lianyungang City, east China’s Jiangsu Province, December 7, 2022.
Photo: Imaginechina (AP)
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Food Market

Food Market

Citizens buy vegetables and food in Kaihua Temple Market in Taiyuan City, north China’s Shanxi Province, December 7, 2022.
Citizens buy vegetables and food in Kaihua Temple Market in Taiyuan City, north China’s Shanxi Province, December 7, 2022.
Photo: Imaginechina (AP)
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Learning About Farms

Learning About Farms

Students learn about farm work on a farm in Jiaji Town, Qionghai City, southernmost China’s Hainan Province, December 7, 2022.
Students learn about farm work on a farm in Jiaji Town, Qionghai City, southernmost China’s Hainan Province, December 7, 2022.
Photo: Imaginechina (AP)
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Restaurants

Restaurants

Customers enter a restaurant as Beijing no longer requires people to  show their negative nucleic acid testing results before entering public  places on December 6, 2022 in Beijing, China.
Customers enter a restaurant as Beijing no longer requires people to show their negative nucleic acid testing results before entering public places on December 6, 2022 in Beijing, China.
Photo: Zhang Yu/China News Service (Getty Images)
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Winter Swimming

Winter Swimming

Winter swimming enthusiasts took part in the winter swimming activity at  the winter swimming base in Lianyungang City, east China’s Jiangsu  Province, December 7, 2022.
Winter swimming enthusiasts took part in the winter swimming activity at the winter swimming base in Lianyungang City, east China’s Jiangsu Province, December 7, 2022.
Photo: Imaginechina (AP)
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Public Transit

Public Transit

People wear masks to travel on a subway in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, China, Dec 6, 2022.
People wear masks to travel on a subway in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, China, Dec 6, 2022.
Photo: CFOTO/Future Publishing (Getty Images)
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Ice Playground

Ice Playground

People play on the frozen Songhua River in Harbin, northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province, December 7, 2022.
People play on the frozen Songhua River in Harbin, northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province, December 7, 2022.
Photo: Imaginechina (AP)
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Manufacturing Electronics

Manufacturing Electronics

Workers are busy producing electronic products in Dongkou County,  Shaoyang City, south China’s Hunan Province, December 7, 2022.
Workers are busy producing electronic products in Dongkou County, Shaoyang City, south China’s Hunan Province, December 7, 2022.
Photo: Imaginechina (AP)
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Mountain View

Mountain View

Aerial photo shows the snow scenery of Batai Mountains in Wanyuan City, southwest China’s Sichuan Province, December 7, 2022.
Aerial photo shows the snow scenery of Batai Mountains in Wanyuan City, southwest China’s Sichuan Province, December 7, 2022.
Photo: Imaginechina (AP)
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