China’s Urumqi eases public transport curbs amid rare protests

Modes of transportation including rail, air, buses and taxis, will resume “gradually and orderly” as of Monday. PHOTO: ST FILE

SHANGHAI – Authorities in the capital of China’s Xinjiang region are set to resume local transportation after a months-long lockdown.

The move follows a deadly fire that reportedly killed 10 people and sparked nationwide protests against the country’s Covid Zero policies.

Modes of transportation including rail, air, buses and taxis, will resume “gradually and orderly” as of Monday, according to a press briefing on Sunday. The decision was made based on “further investigation of the Covid situation”, they said.

People in the north-western Chinese city took on the streets after the disaster, demanding that the lockdown that has been in place since August be lifted.

In a press briefing held late Friday, authorities of Urumqi city apologised to the public and expressed condolences to victims of the fire on Thursday night in a high-rise apartment block. Officials denied online claims that residents couldn’t evacuate because of Covid-19 control measures.

Local officials claimed victory against Covid-19 at a press conference on Saturday, saying there were no infections outside quarantine areas.

They promised gradually to get life back to normal and ease lockdown measures in high-risk areas once there have been no new cases for five days.

Buses and taxis have been halted since early August, while rail and air transport links were blocked in October.

Xinjiang reported 992 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, official figures show. Two confirmed cases and 112 asymptomatic cases were found in Urumqi.

Demonstrations against the stringent Covid-19 control policies have spread out of Xinjiang and across the country.

People in Shanghai gathered late Saturday night to mourn those killed in the fire and demand their freedom.

Videos circulating online also showed confrontations between police and residents in Beijing, as well as college students in Nanjing protesting peacefully.

In a government briefing on Saturday, Xinjiang officials vowed to crack down on “violent resistance against Covid control actions”.

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