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China and Covid19

China’s Twenty Trending Covid Rule Changes and One Big Red Map

These are China’s new rules regarding the “further optimization of the Covid-19 epidemic prevention and control.”

Manya Koetse



The Covid-19 tracking map of China is turning red: Xinjiang, Gansu, Qinghai, Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, Henan, Hubei, Guangdong, and Heilongjiang are among the provinces that have turned into ‘high-risk’ provinces where more than 100 new Covid cases have been detected around November 10-11, nearly three years after the start of China’s Covid-19 outbreak.

There currently are 3930 ‘high risk regions” in mainland China, and the epidemic situation keeps dominating discussions on Chinese social media.

“My entire Weibo timeline is just filled with complaints about the epidemic situation,” one Zhejiang-based Weibo user wrote on 11 November.

Xinjiang is the province in China that is currently seeing the highest number of new Covid cases. On November 10, the topic of Xinjiang detecting 657 new asymptomatic cases of Covid triggered online discussions on Weibo (#新疆新增无症状657例#).

Xinjiang has seen various lockdowns throughout the region since the summer of this year, but the harsh measures could not prevent the further spread of the virus. In October, residents were banned from leaving Xinjiang over more Covid-19 outbreaks, just weeks after restrictions were eased. Many areas of Ürümqi, the capital of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, were placed back under lockdown again.

“We’ve been in lockdown for so long, and cases are still rising?! Where is the root of the problem? Is there no control? How come there are still hundreds of new cases? I don’t know what to say anymore. The people of Xinjiang have already gone through so much,” one popular post on Weibo said.

At the same time, newly announced measures to further optimize Covid prevention and control work also went trending on Weibo on November 11, receiving over fifty million views (#进一步优化防控工作的二十条措施公布#).

The Twenty Trending Covid Measures

On November 11, China’s National Health Commission published an official notice regarding the “further optimization of the Covid-19 epidemic prevention and control measures.”

As emphasized in state media reports on the notice and the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee preceding it, China will unwaveringly stick to its dynamic zero-COVID policy and the measures are therefore not presented as a ‘relaxation’ of Covid-19 measures but rather as a way to make existing rules more efficient.

In short, these are the 20 announced measures (this is not a literal translation, just an explanation):

1. For close contacts of someone who has Covid-19, the “7-day centralized isolation + 3 days home health monitoring” measures have been adjusted to “5+3,” meaning 5 days of centralized isolation and 3 days home isolation.

2. Although close contacts will still need to go to centralized isolation, the close contacts of close contacts (‘secondary contacts’) will no longer be identified.

3. The 7-day centralized quarantine for people who return from a ‘high risk area’ will be turned into a 7-day home isolation.

4. Instead of ‘high’ – ‘medium’ – ‘low’ risk categories, zones will now be labeled as either ‘high’ or ‘low’ risk. High risk zone will be automatically downgraded to low risk zone after 5 consecutive days of no positive cases.

5. High-risk people who come from a closed loop working system will need to stay at home for 5 days and monitor their health, instead of being isolated for a week.

6. Nucleic acid testing should generally not be carried out for the entire population by administrative area, but instead the testing campaigns should be more local and precise.

7. The so-called “circuit breaking mechanism” under which China-bound flight routes were suspended for two weeks if an airline was found to carry a certain number of passengers testing positive for Covid will be abolished. Inbound travelers will need to have one certificate of a negative Covid test within 48 hours, instead of two.

8. Important business personnel or athlete groups etc. will not need to undergo an isolation period, but instead they will enter a ‘closed-loop bubble’ system for their business meetings, trainings or other activities; they will be transferred from place to place and cannot exit their bubble (the Winter Oympics in Beijing also had this system in place).

9. The Ct (cycle threshold) value of nucleic acid tests of international travellers will need to be less than 35. Those travelers showing a Ct value of 35-40 have to undergo further evaluation on virus transmission risk.

10. There will be a shortened quarantine period for international arrivals, going from a total of ten days to a total of eight days: instead of seven days of centralized quarantine and three days of health observation at home, in-bound travellers will be able to do five days of quarantine and three days of health observation at home.

11. There will be more focus on increasing resources for treatment of Covid patients, from ramping up stockpiles of Covid-19 drugs and medical equipment, to a further training of medical staff and a better preparation of inpatient and IC beds.

12. There will be more focus on further speeding up China’s vaccination and booster campaign, especially for the elderly population.

13. Research and development of Covid vaccines and drugs to treat Covid patients needs to be accelerated, especially to protect the elderly and the most vulnerable populations in China.

14. The overall protection of vulnerable groups in society, including senior citizens, pregnant women, immunocompromised patients, etc. will be further strengthened through health safety programs and effective Covid management of places where more vulnerable populations reside, including care homes and psychiatric hospitals.

15. There will be an increased focus on the effective implementation of the principle of the ‘four early’ measures to avoid large breakouts (early detection, early reporting, early isolation, early treatment).

16. Excessive Covid measures are not the way: there should be no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to local outbreaks, which also means no arbitrary lockdowns of schools or entire cities.

17. Local communities are required to improve the food supplies/distribution for residents who are isolated amid local lockdowns. Communities must have certain relevant information about local residents regarding their status; who lives alone, who is pregnant, who is elderly, or otherwise more vulnerable? Residents should always have access to emergency help.

18. On-campus epidemic control must be consistent, precise, and in accordance with science. There can be no unnecessarily long lockdowns of campuses.

19. The bigger enterprises/industrial parks should be consistent, clear, and precise about their epidemic prevention and control measures from the grassroots up, making sure the system of checking who gets in & out gets properly checked, etc. is in order. Basically, these companies should do all they can to ensure the smooth flow of logistics and to make sure production can safely continue.

20. People, or groups of people, who are left stranded amid a local outbreak should get timely help and receive assistance in getting evacuated.

Online sentiments

After the announcement of the twenty measures, questions linger on Weibo. Many people ask when these measures will be implemented.

“The joy after the release of the twenty measures was subdued by the grievances on Weibo,” one Weibo user wrote, while some Ürümqi locals wrote: “So when will our lockdown be lifted? I can’t tell black from white anymore.”

Besides Xinjiang, people in other regions are also concerned about the epidemic situation. There are a lot of complaints from Chongqing, for example (#重庆新增本土感染者783例#), but also from Zhengzhou, Guangzhou, and other cities and areas in high-risk provinces.

“These cities all did a good job in their anti-epidemic control but it’s now all gone to ruins, this shows that the virus can’t be controlled, and there is no way to eliminate it. We need to be ready for it and to live with it,” one Weibo commenter wrote.

“Of all the twenty measures announced, I think number 11 is most important,” one Weibo user wrote: “We need to increase medical resources.”

Another commenter said: “The Dynamic Zero Covid policy isn’t changing. Just because you’re updating the software doesn’t mean you have a new computer.”

One Shanghai blogger wrote: “I found that the so-called ‘anti-epidemic fans’ are two types of people. They are either those who are carefree, either children or those whose work has not been affected by the pandemic; and then those who have not experienced a lockdown themselves, they do not understand the difficulties of a lockdown and how they prevent you from making a living. For them, Covid is far removed from their reality, so they just do not get it.”

Despite all criticism from those who think nothing is going to change, some also express worries about the things that might now change. As one Weibo user wrote on November 12:

“To be honest, I wasn’t anxious at all at the beginning of the epidemic, because I knew the government would control everything. But yesterday and today I began to be very worried because we are actually already easing [measures]. Once we let go, the epidemic will really break out. There will be mass infections and deaths. I’m not necessarily afraid of getting infected, I can take some Chinese medicine and I’m sure I’ll be ok, but we don’t know the long-term effects.”

Overall, there is a sense of anxiousness in the online responses to China’s current Covid outbreaks and the new Covid measures. There are those who are anxious about when their current lockdowns will finally come to an end, and then there are those who are worried about what a possible ‘easing’ of measures might actually mean.

The majority of people at least agree on one thing: there is no easy way ‘out.’ This might just become a long, long winter.

By Manya Koetse



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Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on Contact at, or follow on Twitter.

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China and Covid19

Repurposing China’s Abandoned Nucleic Acid Booths: 10 Innovative Transformations

Abandoned nucleic acid booths are getting a second life through these new initiatives.

Manya Koetse



During the pandemic, nucleic acid testing booths in Chinese cities were primarily focused on maintaining physical distance. Now, empty booths are being repurposed to bring people together, serving as new spaces to serve the community and promote social engagement.

Just months ago, nucleic acid testing booths were the most lively spots of some Chinese cities. During the 2022 Shanghai summer, for example, there were massive queues in front of the city’s nucleic acid booths, as people needed a negative PCR test no older than 72 hours for accessing public transport, going to work, or visiting markets and malls.

The word ‘hésuān tíng‘ (核酸亭), nucleic acid booth (also:核酸采样小屋), became a part of China’s pandemic lexicon, just like hésuān dìtú (核酸地图), the nucleic acid test map lauched in May 2022 that would show where you can get a nucleic test.

Example of nucleic acid test map.

During Halloween parties in Shanghai in 2022, some people even came dressed up as nucleic test booths – although local authorities could not appreciate the creative costume.

Halloween 2022: dressed up as nucliec acid booths. Via @manyapan twitter.

In December 2022, along with the announced changed rules in China’s ‘zero Covid’ approach, nucleic acid booths were suddenly left dismantled and empty.

With many cities spending millions to set up these booths in central locations, the question soon arose: what should they do with the abandoned booths?

This question also relates to who actually owns them, since the ownership is mixed. Some booths were purchased by authorities, others were bought by companies, and there are also local communities owning their own testing booths. Depending on the contracts and legal implications, not all booths are able to get a new function or be removed yet (Worker’s Daily).

In Tianjin, a total of 266 nucleic acid booths located in Jinghai District were listed for public acquisition earlier this month, and they were acquired for 4.78 million yuan (US$683.300) by a local food and beverage company which will transform the booths into convenience service points, selling snacks or providing other services.

Tianjin is not the only city where old nucleic acid testing booths are being repurposed. While some booths have been discarded, some companies and/or local governments – in cooperation with local communities – have demonstrated creativity by transforming the booths into new landmarks. Since the start of 2023, different cities and districts across China have already begun to repurpose testing booths. Here, we will explore ten different way in which China’s abandoned nucleic test booths get a second chance at a meaningful existence.


1: Pharmacy/Medical Booths

Via ‘copyquan’ republished on Sohu.

Blogger ‘copyquan’ recently explored various ways in which abandoned PCR testing points are being repurposed.

One way in which they are used is as small pharmacies or as medical service points for local residents (居民医疗点). Alleviating the strain on hospitals and pharmacies, this was one of the earliest ways in which the booths were repurposed back in December of 2022 and January of 2023.

Chongqing, Tianjin, and Suzhou were among earlier cities where some testing booths were transformed into convenient medical facilities.


2: Market Stalls

Market stalls instead of nucliec acid testing booths. Image via Sina.

In Suzhou, Jiangsu province, the local government transformed vacant nucleic acid booths into market stalls for the Spring Festival in January 2022, offering them free of charge to businesses to sell local products, snacks, and traditional New Year goods.

The idea was not just meant as a way for small businesses to conveniently sell to local residents, it was also meant as a way to attract more shoppers and promote other businesses in the neighborhood.


3: Community Service Center

Small grid community center in Shizhuang Village, image via Sohu.

Some residential areas have transformed their local nucleic acid testing booths into community service centers, offering all kinds of convenient services to neighborhood residents.

These little station are called wǎnggé yìzhàn (网格驿站) or “grid service stations,” and they can serve as small community centers where residents can get various kinds of care and support.


4: “Refuel” Stations

In February of this year, 100 idle nucleic acid sampling booths were transformed into so-called “Rider Refuel Stations” (骑士加油站) in Zhejiang’s Pinghu. Although it initially sounds like a place where delivery riders can fill up their fuel tanks, it is actually meant as a place where they themselves can recharge.

Delivery riders and other outdoor workers can come to the ‘refuel’ station to drink some water or tea, warm their hands, warm up some food and take a quick nap.


5: Free Libraries

image via sohu.

In various Chinese cities, abandoned nucleic acid booths have been transformed into little free libraries where people can grab some books to read, donate or return other books, and sit down for some reading.

Changzhou is one of the places where you’ll find such “drifting bookstores” (漂流书屋) (see video), but similar initiatives have also been launched in other places, including Suzhou.


6: Study Space

Photos via Copyquan’s article on Sohu.

Another innovative way in which old testing points are being repurposed is by turning them into places where students can sit together to study. The so-called “Let’s Study Space” (一间习吧), fully airconditioned, are opened from 8 in the morning until 22:00 at night.

Students – or any citizens who would like a nice place to study – can make online reservations with their ID cards and scan a QR code to enter the study rooms.

There are currently ten study booths in Anji, and the popular project is an initiative by the Anji County Library in Zhejiang (see video).


7: Beer Kiosk

Hoegaarden beer shop, image via Creative Adquan.

Changing an old nucleic acid testing booth into a beer bar is a marketing initiative by the Shanghai McCann ad agency for the Belgium beer brand Hoegaarden.

The idea behind the bar is to celebrate a new spring after the pandemic. The ad agency has revamped a total of six formr nucleic acid booths into small Hoegaarden ‘beer gardens.’


8: Police Box

In Taizhou City, Jiangsu Province, authorities have repurposed old testing booths and transformed them into ‘police boxes’ (警务岗亭) to enhance security and improve the visibility of city police among the public.

Currently, a total of eight vacant nucleic acid booths have been renovated into modern police stations, serving as key points for police presence and interaction with the community.


9: Lottery Ticket Booths

Image via The Paper

Some nucleic acid booths have now been turned into small shops selling lottery tickets for the China Welfare Lottery. One such place turning the kiosks into lottery shops is Songjiang in Shanghai.

Using the booths like this is a win-win situation: they are placed in central locations so it is more convenient for locals to get their lottery tickets, and on the other hand, the sales also help the community, as the profits are used for welfare projects, including care for the elderly.


10: Mini Fire Stations

Micro fire stations, images via ZjNews.

Some communities decided that it would be useful to repurpose the testing points and turn them into mini fire kiosks, just allowing enough space for the necessary equipment to quickly respond to fire emergencies.

Want to read more about the end of ‘zero Covid’ in China? Check our other articles here.

By Manya Koetse,

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Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at

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China and Covid19

The Hottest Place in China: How Zibo Became a Popular Tourist Destination and an Online Hit

There are even special Zibo BBQ trains now. This is how Zibo barbecue suddenly became the hottest meal of the country.

Manya Koetse



The old industrial city of Zibo treated students well during their zero Covid quarantine. This spring, they came back to celebrate the city. Their enthusiasm and social media posts were so contagious that the entire country now wants a taste of Zibo barbecue.

In central Shandong province, bordering the provincial capital Jinan to the west, you will find the city of Zibo (淄博). With its 4.7 million inhabitants, the old industrial and mining city was not exactly known as a trendy tourist destination. But that has all changed now. Everybody is talking about Zibo.

For the upcoming May 1st holiday, hotel bookings in Zibo went up 800% compared to 2019, making it one of the most popular destinations in Shandong. The city has especially attracted online attention since March of 2023, with hashtags and hot searches peaking over the previous week.

How did Zibo become such an online sensation, especially among China’s young travelers? The city’s hit status is widely discussed on Chinese social media apps these days. The emergence of such an overnight sensation is usually the result of various factors coming together at the right time, and this is also the case with the hype surrounding Zibo.

Zibo Barbecue

Its appealing barbecue culture is the first and main reason why Zibo is so hot nowadays. The city has been known for its barbecue restaurants for years, and creating a thriving open-air BBQ entertainment environment is also something the local authorities have invested in. They are publicizing Zibo as an ambassador city for “Friendly Shandong” (“好客山东”), the slogan the province uses to promote its image and boost tourism.

The Zibo BBQ experience includes every table having its own small stove and it has that ‘do it yourself’ factor that hotpot-style dinners also have: when the skewers are served, the diners have to grill them themselves and then wrap them in thin pancakes, usually with spring onions.

Zibo barbecue, images via social media.

As one of its tourism promotion initiatives, Zibo has set up special tourist trains and dedicated BBQ bus routes to attract groups of tourists and boost local tourism after the pandemic years. Train ticket sales for May 1st already doubled that of Spring Festival, and tickets for the Beijing South-Zibo route sold out online within a minute the moment they became available.

A Kind City in Difficult Times

Another reason for Zibo’s sudden fame was suggested by some Chinese netizens (including the popular @地瓜熊老六), who said that Zibo played a special role during China’s zero-Covid policy.

Zibo first went trending after a group of students from Jinan went there in March of this year. They came to Zibo because this was where they apparently were quarantined for a while during Covid, and they were well taken care of during their stay.

According to one Zibo local, the students also celebrated their last night in Zibo at the time with a major BBQ feast.

It is said that the students from Jinan wanted to go back to Zibo at this time and spend time there as a way to thank the city – not knowing they would start a viral sensation.

Power of TikTok

Douyin, the Chinese TikTok app, is also at the heart of Zibo’s recent success.

As reported by 36kr, Zibo first became a hot topic on Douyin in early March, when the videos of the initial groups of students taking the high-speed train to Zibo to eat barbecue went viral.

In April, Zibo again hit the hot trending lists on Douyin after one vlogger tried out ten different food stalls in the city and found that they all gave him the right portions or even gave him some extra food for free, reinforcing the idea that Zibo is a hospitable city.

What followed was a snowball effect, from Douyin to Xiaohongshu to Weibo, with videos showing Zibo diners singing together while eating and having a good time spreading all over social media, only increasing the appeal of the city. “Zibo is just all over my timeline,” some commenters wrote on April 15.

Crazy Travel after Covid

According to the Chinese media platform DT Finance (DT财经), Zibo is a destination that especially resonates with Chinese students who have new wishes when it comes to traveling.

Especially during the pandemic and China’s stringent Covid measures, many people have spent a lot of time indoors, quarantined, locked down, and/or unable to travel. Now that spring is here, people want to seize the moment and go out and enjoy their leisure time. This also means that instead of planning longer holidays well in advance, people book shorter, last-minute trips.

Social media pics of Zibo trips.

This is also one of the reasons why Zibo is especially popular among students from Shandong, who can hop on a train, reach their destination, and find themselves enjoying a beer and barbecue within a matter of hours.

Stories from Zibo

In light of the craze surrounding Zibo, there are various stories emerging from the thriving city that only add to its charm. For example, there are many videos showing the lively scenes around BBQ restaurants which went viral.

One visitor needed to catch his train but still wanted a taste of Zibo BBQ, so one female shop owner hurried things along and made sure he got his Zibo dinner (#淄博老板娘为赶高铁小伙1v1烤串#).

Then there was a 95-year-old veteran who visited the Zibo BBQ scene and his visit also made its rounds on social media (#95岁老兵体验淄博烧烤被围观#).

Another trending hashtag is about Zibo’s music events (#淄博音乐节#), about some of the planned events and (rock) concerts taking place in Zibo in late April and early May. “Zibo’s cultural tourism office really understand how to do it,” various commenters wrote, praising how Zibo is not just known for its barbecue restaurants but also for its lively music scene.

Then there are the videos showing an entire crowd singing ‘happy birthday’ because one person is celebrating their birthday.

All in all, it’s clear that Zibo did something right. Especially in these times when so many cities across China are doing all they can to promote their town as a tourist destination (read all about it here), Zibo has proven that consistency is key to success: stay kind, be reliable, but most of all, keep the barbecue hot.

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

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©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at

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