Chinese authorities said on Saturday they would lift a months-long Covid lockdown in the country's far western region of Xinjiang after protests over a deadly fire at an apartment building in the regional capital of Urumqi.
At least 10 people were killed and nine injured when the fire broke out on Thursday, according to the local fire department. Public anger over the tragedy has grown as video footage shows lockdown measures delaying firefighters from accessing the scene and reaching victims.
One video that was widely circulating on Friday night shows a large group of people marching to a government building in Urumqi and chanting end lockdowns, while another shows some residents breaking through lockdown barriers and quarreling with officials.
The city, with a population of close to 4 million people, has been under a strict lockdown since August, despite the measures its daily Covid infections still hover around 100.
Local government officials promised to lift lockdown measures in stages to allow residents in low risk compounds to leave their buildings at a press conference on Saturday.
Sui Rong, the Urumqi propaganda chief, claimed that the city had basically eliminated Covid cases in society because of the lockdown measures.
She did not admit that there had been any protests and neither did she provide a time frame for the relaxation of the measures or how many people would be able to leave their homes or compounds after the announcement.
In recent weeks, there have been growing dissent towards the government's unrelenting zero-Covid lockdowns, which officials insist are necessary to protect people's lives against the disease.
The workers at the world's biggest iPhone assembly factory clashed with hazmat-suited security officers over a delay in bonus payments and chaotic Covid rules in the central city of Zhengzhou this week.
A resident spokeswoman for the Covid lockdown on Thursday in the sprawling metropolis of Chongqing in the southwest. He shouted to a cheering crowd, who he hailed as a hero and wrestled him from the grip of several police officers who tried to take him away.
As China enters its fourth winter, hopes that Beijing might be signaling a softer approach after minor relaxations in some quarantine requirements are beginning to fade, as the country's economy continues to suffer from an uptick in cases.
Covid cases in the country reached record highs this week, according to the National Health Commission.