China eased some COVID-19 mandates Monday but still affirmed its commitment to the severe “zero COVID” policy after protesters over the weekend demanded President Xi Jinping resign.
The government did not comment on the protests, which erupted across the country Friday after some blamed the lockdown measures for a slow response to an apartment fire that killed 10 people last week in northwest China.
The city of Beijing said it will no longer place gates to block access to apartment buildings with COVID-positive residents, the Associated Press reported.
The trade city of Guangzhou is under a virus outbreak some residents will not be forced to submit to mass testing, out of the need to conserve resources.
Urumqi, where the apartment fire occurred, said markets and other areas considered to be at low risk of transmission would reopen this week and public bus services would restart.
The People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party newspaper, defended the zero-COVID policy, which has kept reported infections low while locking millions of people inside of their homes for months.
“Facts have fully proved that each version of the prevention and control plan has withstood the test of practice,” reads an editorial for the state-controlled outlet.
The rare protests against Beijing occurred in at least eight major cities. On Saturday, a crowd in Shanghai chanted, “Xi Jinping, step down” and “Communist party, step down.”