More Chinese cities together with Urumqi in the far west give out easing of coronavirus curbs on Sunday, as China tries to make its zero-COVID policy more targeted and less onerous after extraordinary protests against limitations last weekend.
The National Health Commission said one death was reported each in the provinces of Shandong and Sichuan. No information was given about the ages of the victims or whether they had been fully vaccinated.
China, where the virus first was perceive in late 2019 in the central city of Wuhan, is the last major country trying to stop transmission completely through quarantines, lockdowns and mass testing. Concerns over vaccination rates are believed to figure noticeable in the pronouncement Communist Party’s determination to stick to its hardline strategy.
While nine in 10 Chinese have been vaccinated, only 66% of people over 80 have gotten one shot, while 40% have received a booster, according to the commission. It said 86% of people over 60 are vaccinated.
Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region and where the protests first broke out, will reopen shopping malls, markets, restaurants and other venues from Monday, authorities said, after strict lockdowns that had lasted months.
There was little sign of significant unrest this weekend, although police were out in force in the Liangmaqiao area of Beijing and in Shanghai around Wulumuqi Road, which is named after Urumqi. Both sites saw protests a week ago.
A deadly apartment fire last month in Urumqi had sparked dozens of protests against COVID curbs in over 20 cities, a show of civil disobediance unprecedented in mainland China since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012.
Given those figures and the fact that relatively few Chinese have been built up antibodies by being exposed to the virus, some fear millions could die if restrictions were lifted entirely.
Yet, an outpouring of public anger appears to have prompted authorities to lift some of the more onerous restrictions, even as they say the “zero-COVID” strategy — which aims to isolate every infected person — is still in place.