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China urges local governments to minimise impact from COVID-19 curbs over Chinese New Year

China urges local governments to minimise impact from COVID-19 curbs over Chinese New Year

People walk on a street as the COVID-19 outbreak continues in Beijing, China, Jan 13, 2022. (Photo: REUTERS/Thomas Peter)

BEIJING: China's state planner on Sunday (Jan 16) urged local governments to minimise the impact from COVID-19 restrictions over the upcoming Chinese New Year holiday to help a rebound in consumption, as rising cases of the Omicron variant threaten economic growth.

"Local governments should avoid simplified, one-size-fits-all ... COVID-19 epidemic and control measures (over the holiday) and minimise the impact on the people's life," the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said in a statement.

It said low-risk places in China meet the reasonable demand for short trips from urban and rural residents, and step up the supply of everyday products over the holiday period.

China has reported local cases of the highly transmissible Omicron variant in at least five provinces and municipalities, including a first infection in capital Beijing on Saturday, just weeks ahead of the Olympic Winter Games in February.

It reported 119 new confirmed COVID-19 cases for Saturday, down from 165 a day earlier, its health authority said on Sunday.

Of the new infections, 65 were locally transmitted, according to a statement by the National Health Commission (NHC), compared with 104 a day earlier.

The new locally transmitted cases were in Tianjin, Henan, Beijing, Guangdong and Shaanxi, the NHC said.

Local governments are on high alert to potential COVID-19 cases from outside, with many urging residents to stay put for the third straight year during what is usually the busiest travel period of the year.

China's economy likely grew at its slowest pace in one-and-a-half years in the fourth quarter, weighed down by weaker demand due to a property downturn, curbs on debt and strict COVID-19 measures.

The NDRC on Sunday also said it supports the healthy development of the property market and the legitimate demand from home-buyers, while asking local governments to step up oversight of unfair competition and other monopolistic behaviours over the holiday period.

"The measures are aimed to further release the potential of consumer spending and push for a stable start to the economic growth in the first quarter," the NDRC said.

China reported 52 new asymptomatic cases for Jan 15, which it classifies separately from confirmed cases, higher than 25 infections a day earlier.

There were no new deaths, leaving the death toll at 4,636.

As of Jan 15, mainland China had 104,864 confirmed cases.

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Source: Reuters/dv

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