Speed Reads

Making Changes

2 Chinese cities ease COVID-19 restrictions as protesters pledge to continue

As protests in China over strict COVID-19 lockdowns rage on, a pair of cities announced on Wednesday that they would be easing up on some of the restrictions, Reuters reported. 

The southwestern city of Chongqing will begin letting close contacts of COVID-positive patients quarantine at home under strict conditions, officials announced. Guangzhou, near Hong Kong, announced similar rollbacks of restrictions in certain districts, including the lifting of lockdowns and an end to mandatory PCR testing, per The Guardian. The cities are both major metropolises, and have an estimated combined population of nearly 50 million. 

The decisions by the two cities come as protests over China's "zero COVID" policy reached a boiling point this week. Anger over the country's strict mandates, as well as a deadly apartment fire critics say was exacerbated by the lockdown, caused protesters to spill into the streets in cities around China, including the capital Beijing. In an unprecedented show of dissidence, many were reportedly heard calling for Chinese President Xi Jinping to step down. 

However, even with this curbing of mandates, China continues to see record-high COVID cases, and Xi has continually asserted that his "zero COVID" policy is a successful tool in combating the virus. As a result, the policy is unlikely to see a significant change any time soon. 

Despite this, some protesters told Reuters they were still going to rally for change. The recent death of former President Jiang Zemin, a popular leader who oversaw a period of mass economic growth, may also further push citizens to march.