China's capital Beijing has scrapped the need for people to show negative COVID-19 tests to enter supermarkets, offices, the subway and the city’s international airport on Tuesday, as restrictions are being softened across the country following last month's historic protests.
"Beijing readies itself for life again" was a headline of government-owned China Daily newspaper, which claimed that people were "gradually embracing" the slow return to normality.
The country has been gripped by a set of heated demonstrations in November that represented the biggest display of public discontent in mainland China since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012.
While the city came to a standstill on Tuesday morning as a public memorial for China’s late leader, Jiang Zemin, took place, some of Beijing’s residents openly shared their satisfaction with the removal of such restrictions.
"This might be the first step towards reopening from this pandemic," local Hu Dongxu, 27, told Reuters as he swiped his travel card to enter a train station in the capital.
The shift comes as top officials softened their stance on the dangers posed by COVID-19, bringing China closer to other countries around the world that have chosen to adapt and live with the virus’s spread.
Reuters has also reported that China may announce 10 new nationwide easing measures as early as Wednesday, sparking optimism among global investors.
But despite reassurances from authorities who downplay the severity of the virus, commuter traffic in major urban centres like Beijing and Chongqing remains at a fraction of previous levels.
Some people remain wary of catching COVID-19, particularly the elderly — many of whom remain unvaccinated. There is also concern about how re-opening the country could potentially strain its fragile health system.
China has reported 5,235 COVID-related deaths as of Monday, but some experts fear that toll could exceed 1 million if the exit is too hasty.