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As China begins to dismantle ‘zero COVID’ controls, virus fears grow by Reuters

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© Reuters. People wearing face masks cross the street, as the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in Shanghai, China December 8, 2022. REUTERS/Ali Song

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Written by Brenda Goh and Ella Kao

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – As many Chinese embraced new freedoms Thursday after the country abandoned key parts of its strict regime to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, there were growing concerns that the virus, which has been largely restricted, It could spread soon.

Three years into the pandemic, many in China have longed for Beijing to begin aligning its strict virus prevention measures with the rest of the world, which has largely opened up in an effort to coexist with the disease.

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Those frustrations boiled over into widespread protests last month, in the biggest show of public discontent since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012.

Without saying it was a response to those protests, some cities and regions have begun to ease COVID controls, in moves that heralded a nationwide relaxation of rules revealed by the National Health Commission on Wednesday.

People with mild symptoms can now self-quarantine at home, the NHC said, eliminating the need for tests and health status checks on mobile apps for a variety of activities including travel around the country.

Domestic ticket sales to tourist and entertainment venues have soared, according to state press, while some people have taken to social media to reveal they have tested positive for the virus — something that once carried heavy stigma in China.

Others expressed caution.

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“I know COVID isn’t ‘terrible’ right now, but it’s still contagious and will hurt,” said one of the posts on Weibo (NASDAQ:). “The fear it brings to our hearts cannot be easily dispelled.”

“So many positives!” Another Weibo user said.

Some manufacturers and restaurants keen to stay open in China prefer to err on the side of caution, by keeping COVID-19 restrictions in place until they get a clearer picture of how workplaces will be affected by the easing of strict measures.

China reported 21,439 new domestic COVID-19 infections on December 7, down slightly from the previous day and below the peak of 40,052 cases on November 27. Cases have trended downward recently as authorities across the country rolled back testing requirements.

Shares in China and Hong Kong lifted Asian stock markets on Thursday, as those still cautious steps toward reopening were seen to give the world’s second-largest economy a chance to regain momentum. Macau casino operators partially led the rally, finishing up 12.2%, sending their quarterly gains up to 46.5%.

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which has also regained some of its gains against the dollar in recent weeks, was little changed on Thursday.

More broadly, the shift is likely to slow economic growth over the next few months as infections increase, leading to a rebound only later in 2023, economists said.

China’s Premier Li Keqiang was quoted by state broadcaster CCTV on Thursday as saying that this growth will continue to accelerate with the implementation of relaxation measures.

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Shanghai, China’s most populous city, which has suffered one of the country’s longest and harshest lockdowns, on Thursday eliminated the need for COVID tests to enter restaurants or entertainment venues.

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There has been no mention of China’s “zero COVID” policy in recent announcements, raising suspicions that the term has expired as the government gradually moves the country toward coexistence with the virus.

Senior officials have also softened their tone on the risks posed by the virus.

But, embracing the new, more relaxed controls, some cities have urged residents to exercise caution.

“The general public should maintain good awareness of personal protection, and be the first person responsible for their own health,” Zhengzhou, the central city with the world’s largest iPhone factory, said in a message to residents.

He urged residents to wear masks, maintain social distancing, seek medical attention for fever and other COVID symptoms, and especially for the elderly, to get vaccinated.

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Some analysts and medical experts say China is ill-prepared for a spike in infections, in part because of low vaccination rates among vulnerable groups and a fragile healthcare system.

Amid reports of panic buying of fever medicine, financial news outlet Yicai, citing third-party data, said the average daily sales volume of home test kits had risen more than 400 times compared to November.

“(China) may have to pay a price for its procrastination in adopting a ‘live with COVID’ approach,” Nomura analysts said in a note Thursday.

China’s infection rates of just 0.13% are “far from the level required for herd immunity,” Nomura said.

As many as 60% of China’s population could be infected in the first wave on a large scale before stabilizing, Feng Zijian, a former CDC official in China, told China Youth Daily.

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“Eventually, about 80%-90% of people will be infected,” he said.

The country will likely face a large-scale outbreak in the next month or two, state-owned China Newsweek reported Thursday, citing health experts.

China’s current tally of 5,235 COVID-related deaths is a fraction of its population of 1.4 billion, very low by global standards. And some experts have warned that the death toll could rise to more than 1.5 million if the exit is too precipitated.

But, even with the stakes, there is an acceptance among many that life must go on.

Yan, an unemployed 22-year-old resident of Beijing, said he hoped a greater opening up of the Chinese economy would help him: “It’s impossible to completely kill this virus, maybe just live with it, and hope it develops into influenza.” I am looking for a job.

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MicroStrategy is at its lowest level since 2020 after the sales were revealed

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(Bloomberg) — Shares of MicroStrategy touched their lowest level since August 2020 after the enterprise software company, which in recent years has been known as the largest buyer of bitcoin, revealed its first sale of the token.

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The stock fell 1.1 percent to $136.63 on Thursday, down 75 percent this year. Bitcoin rose less than 1% to around $16,590 and is believed to have fallen 64% since the start of the year.

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In a filing on Wednesday, MicroStrategy said it acquired approximately 2,395 Bitcoin between the beginning of November and December 21 through its subsidiary MacroStrategy, and paid out approximately $42.8 million in cash. It then sold 704 of the tokens on Dec. 22 for a total of about $11.8 million, citing tax purposes, before buying another 810 of them two days later.

Matt Malley, chief market strategist for Miller Tabak + Co. Step down as CEO. This news means they don’t seem to want to do that anytime soon.”

Overall, MicroStrategy held about 132,500 bitcoins worth over $4 billion USD as of December 27th. The company paid an average purchase price of $30,397 per bitcoin.

“Given MicroStrategy’s $2.4 billion in leverage, we believe the company may have a lot of leverage over Bitcoin, and may face some liquidity risk,” Jefferies analyst Brent Thiel wrote in a note on Wednesday. Thill has an “underperform” rating on the stock and a price target of $110.

Over the years of the pandemic, MicroStrategy has become well known for its Bitcoin takeovers, largely led by Saylor. Earlier this year, Saylor stepped down from that role and now serves as CEO at the company and continues to lead its bitcoin strategy.

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MicroStrategy was trading around $120 before Saylor first announced the company’s Bitcoin purchases in 2020. The stock reached an all-time high of $1,315 in February 2021.

(Updates to include the stock’s closing price in the second paragraph.)

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Bankman-Fried May File Petition in New York Federal Court Next Week Before Judge Louis Kaplan By Cointelegraph

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Former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried is set to appear in court on the afternoon of January 3 to enter a lawsuit over two counts of wire fraud and six counts of conspiracy against him related to the collapse of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, according to Reuters. mentioned on December 28, citing court records. Bankman-Fried will appear before District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan.

Judge Kaplan was appointed to hear the case on December 27 after the original judge in the case, Ronnie Abrams, Resigned herself because of connections between FTX and the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell, where her husband is a partner. The company provided advisory services to FTX in 2021.