A cautious response as China eases 'zero-COVID'

STORY: In Beijing, streets were largely empty on Saturday (December 10) - shopping malls deserted.

China's dismantlement of its zero-COVID policy may be gathering pace - but the move appears to being met with caution by residents such as this 18-year-old student, surnamed Tan.

"I'm really afraid of being infected, because the number of infected people is growing gradually in Beijing. But I must come out and run some errands today. I have been delaying going outside for three weeks due to COVID."

After widespread protests, Chinese authorities switched course from the zero-COVID policy.

Whilst that has been welcomed by a weary public, concerns have also been stoked that infections could spike.

With less testing now required and those with mild to no symptoms allowed to quarantine at home, the focus has shifted to ensuring adequate provisions of medicines and shoring up the country's healthcare system.

On Saturday China said it would stop checking truck drivers and ship crew transporting good domestically for COVID-19.

That removes a key bottleneck from a supply chain that had been thrown into disarray earlier this year by requirements for those involved in goods transportation to show negative COVID test results or health codes at check points.

Authorities said removing those curbs was aimed at ensuring the smooth supply of medicines and items such as antigen kits.

Long queues have formed at pharmacies in many Chinese cities by people looking to buy cough medicines, flu drugs and masks.

Over the weekend the state market regulator warned against price gouging in anti-COVID products.