Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

China reports two new Covid deaths as some restrictions eased

(Ng Han Guan/AP)
(Ng Han Guan/AP)

China has reported two additional deaths from Covid-19 as some cities move cautiously to ease anti-pandemic restrictions.

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 detected 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 prominently in the ruling Communist Party’s determination to stick to its hard-line strategy.

While nine in 10 Chinese have been vaccinated, only 66% of people over 80 have gotten one jab, while 40% have received a booster, according to the commission. It said 86% of people over 60 are vaccinated.

Virus Outbreak China
Residents go about their life with some shops re-opening for business as restrictions are eased in Beijing (Ng Han Guan/AP)

Given those figures and the fact that relatively few Chinese have 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.

Beijing and some other Chinese cities have announced that riders can board buses and subways without a virus test for the first time in months.

The slight relaxation of testing requirements comes even as daily virus infections reach near-record highs, and follows weekend protests across the country by residents frustrated by the rigid enforcement of anti-virus restrictions that are now entering their fourth year, even as the rest of the world has opened up.

The southern technological manufacturing centre of Shenzhen said on Saturday that commuters no longer need to show a negative Covid-19 test result to use public transport or when entering pharmacies, parks and tourist attractions.

Meanwhile, the capital Beijing said on Friday that negative test results are also no longer required for public transport from Monday.

However, a negative result obtained within the past 48 hours is still required to enter venues like shopping malls, which have gradually reopened with many restaurants and eateries providing takeout services.

The requirement has led to complaints from some Beijing residents that even though the city has shut many testing stations, most public venues still require Covid-19 tests.

Malaysia China Protest
Protesters had called for the resignation of China’s President Xi Jinping (Vincent Thian/AP)

On Sunday, China announced another 35,775 cases from the past 24 hours, 31,607 of which were asymptomatic, bringing its total to 336,165 with 5,235 deaths.

While many have questioned the accuracy of the Chinese figures, they remain relatively low compared to the US and other nations which are now relaxing controls and trying to live with the virus that has killed at least 6.6 million people worldwide and sickened almost 650 million.

As the rest of the world has learned to live with the virus, China remains the only major nation still sticking to a “zero-Covid” strategy.

The policy, which has been in place since the pandemic started, led to snap lockdowns and mass testing across the country.

Recent demonstrations, the largest and most widely spread in decades, erupted on November 25 after a fire in an apartment building in the northwestern city of Urumqi killed at least 10 people.

That set off angry questions online about whether firefighters or victims trying to escape were blocked by locked doors or other anti-virus controls. Authorities denied that, but the deaths became a focus of public frustration.

The country saw several days of protests across cities including Shanghai and Beijing, with protesters demanding an easing of Covid-19 curbs.

Some demanded Chinese President Xi Jinping step down, an extraordinary show of public dissent in a society over which the ruling Communist Party exercises near total control.

Mr Xi’s government has promised to reduce the cost and disruption of controls but says it will stick with “zero Covid”.

Health experts and economists expect it to stay in place at least until mid-2023 and possibly into 2024 while millions of older people are vaccinated in preparation for lifting controls that keep most visitors out of China.