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Beijing sheds burden of COVID testing as broader easing approaches By Reuters

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© Reuters. An epidemic prevention worker wearing a protective suit stacks bags of medical waste outside a building as residents isolate at home as the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continues in Beijing, December 5, 2022. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

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Written by Ryan Wu and Martin Quinn Pollard

BEIJING (Reuters) – Residents of the Chinese capital were allowed into parks, supermarkets, offices and airports without a negative COVID-19 test on Tuesday, the latest in a nationwide mix of easing steps after unprecedented protests against a strict policy to crack down on the coronavirus.

“Beijing prepares for life again,” a headline in the state-owned China Daily newspaper said, adding that people were “gradually embracing” newfound freedoms.

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Authorities have eased some of the world’s toughest COVID restrictions to varying degrees and softened their tone on the threat of the virus, in what many hope will herald a more visible shift toward normalcy after three years into the pandemic.

“This may be the first step towards reopening,” Hu Dongxu, 27, told Reuters.

While they awaited the news, some people, worried that the virus might now spread faster, rushed to buy COVID antigen kits and fever medicine and market regulators issued warnings against hoarding and price hikes.

State media reported that both of the city’s airports no longer require people to take a test to enter the terminal, though there was no indication of a change in the rule to test negative before boarding a plane.

The relaxation of the rules comes after a series of protests last month that were the biggest display of public discontent in mainland China since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012.

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While the rallies subsided, crowds of students at a university in the city of Nanjing chanted in protest Monday against the campus’ COVID policy, according to videos on Twitter. Reuters confirmed that the footage was taken at Nanjing Technology University.

Two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that China may announce 10 new easing measures as early as Wednesday.

The prospect of a relaxation has fueled investor optimism that the world’s second-largest economy will regain steam and help boost global growth.

The greenback has gained nearly 5% against the greenback since early November on expectations of an eventual reopening of the Chinese economy.

Screenshots of an article critical of China’s non-coronavirus policy published by Henan Province’s health supervision authority went viral on social media on Tuesday, after it was blocked after being published.

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The article posted on the WeChat page of the Zhumadian City Health Commission criticized some of the “devastating” effects caused by the policy and its sometimes “brutal” implementation.

But on the ground, many people have been slow to adapt to the changing rules. Passenger traffic in major cities such as Beijing and Chongqing remained a fraction of normal levels.

Some people remain wary of catching the virus, particularly the elderly, while there are concerns about the strain the mitigation could put on a fragile health system.

“My parents are still very careful,” said James Liu, 22, a student in the city of Shenzhen in the southern province of Guangdong, where authorities dropped testing requirements for access to the family’s apartment complex.

China reported 5,235 COVID-related deaths as of Monday, but some experts have warned the number could rise to more than a million if the exit is too hasty.

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Analysts at Nomura estimate that the areas under lockdown account for about 19.3% of China’s gross domestic product, equal to the size of India’s economy but down from 25.1% last Monday.

This marks the first drop in Nomura’s closely watched Chinese lockdown index since early October.

Meanwhile, officials continue to downplay the risks posed by the virus, bringing China closer than other countries say in more than a year, dropping restrictions and choosing to live with the virus, even as it spreads.

Reuters reported on Monday that China’s management of the disease may be downgraded as early as January, to the less stringent Category B from the current higher level of Category A for infectious diseases.

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“The most difficult period has passed,” the official Xinhua news agency said in a commentary on Monday, citing the low pathogenicity of the virus and efforts to vaccinate 90% of the population.

Analysts predict that China may reopen the economy and abandon its border controls sooner than expected next year, and some see it opening fully in the spring.

But more than half of Chinese say they would put off overseas travel even if borders reopen now, according to a survey of 4,000 consumers by the consulting firm Oliver Wyman.

But for all those apprehensive about a return to normalcy, there are others calling for more freedoms.

“Let’s quickly implement these policies,” a Beijing-based lawyer surnamed Li wrote on WeChat, in response to the dropping of the test requirement.

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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.