China urges local govts to minimize impact from COVID-19 curbs over Lunar New Year

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

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BEIJING, Jan 16 (Reuters) - China's state planner on Sunday urged local governments to minimise the impact from COVID-19 restrictions over the upcoming Lunar 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 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.

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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. read more

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 1-1/2 years in the fourth quarter, weighed down by weaker demand due to a property downturn, curbs on debt and strict COVID-19 measures. read more

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.

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Reporting by Stella Qiu and Ryan Woo; Editing by Tom Hogue

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