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Beijing is tightening its hard-line Covid Zero rules, mandating that kids show a negative test result to enter parks in China’s capital. 

Children older than three will need to show a green health code on the system that controls people’s movements, as well as a negative Covid result no older than 72 hours, according to a statement from the Beijing Municipal Administration Center of Parks. Previously, kids were able to go to parks and other public places without getting their test results checked provided their parents met requirements for entry. 

China is relying on frequent testing to identify, then quash, transmission chains early even as its zero-tolerance approach comes under increasing strain from more transmissible variants and isolates it from the rest of the world. While Beijing has contained its recent flare up without a widespread lockdown, authorities in the city are under immense pressure to control the situation ahead of the party congress in the second half, when President Xi Jinping is expected to secure an unprecedented third term as leader.

Getting a test isn’t particularly onerous and children have had to participate in previous rounds of mass testing. China is setting up tens of thousands of booths across the country, initially with a focus on major cities, to meet a pledge to ensure residents will always be just a 15 minute walk away from a swabbing point. 

Still, the new rule was seen as extreme even by a population that’s been subject to varying degrees of pandemic curbs. A hashtag linked to the story was one of the top five trending items on China’s Twitter-like Weibo on Wednesday morning, with posters questioning how useful the policy will be.

For kids wanting to play in parks, they’ll now need to swipe their national identification cards on a machine or have their health status checked via someone else’s phone.

Beijing’s most recent cluster was linked to a bar, and there has never been an infection linked to a park. Over 95% of Chinese children between three and 17 years old are now fully vaccinated, according to latest data.

 

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