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COVID-19 lockdown protests intensify after deadly fire in China

Government officials in the Chinese city of Urumqi (pictured) lifted strict COVID-19 restrictions in parts of the municipality on Saturday, following major protests and a deadly fire earlier in the week that killed 10 people. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
Government officials in the Chinese city of Urumqi (pictured) lifted strict COVID-19 restrictions in parts of the municipality on Saturday, following major protests and a deadly fire earlier in the week that killed 10 people. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 26 (UPI) -- Government officials in the Chinese city of Urumqi lifted strict COVID-19 restrictions in parts of the municipality on Saturday following major protests and a deadly fire that killed 10 people.

The capital of the northwestern Xinjiang province has been under severe restrictions since August.

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In Urumqi, residents have faced a lockdown since Aug. 10, one of China's longest and toughest COVID-19 residential restrictions.

Last week, the city updated its controls that allowed residents in districts that have reported no cases for five days in a row to leave home in an "orderly and controlled" manner.

RELATED Xinjiang fire at apartment on lockdown kills 10, injures 9

Video on social media appears to show a throng of protesters in Urumqi following the deadly fire, the BBC reported. Protestors also gathered in front of a government building.

The blaze in a tall residential building broke out on the 15th floor late Thursday and took firefighters around three hours to get under control. The number and extent people injured in the fire wasn't immediately clear, however multiple people were taken to local hospitals.

The fire engulfed two floors of the complex and was blamed on a faulty power strip in a bedroom.

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City officials apologized on Friday during a news conference, offering their condolences to the families of the victims of the fire.

Authorities also denied speculation that evacuation and rescue efforts may have been delayed due to strict COVID-19 restrictions.

The blaze intensified ongoing protests of the lockdown conditions, part of China's strict "zero covid" policy towards the virus.

RELATED Factory fire kills dozens in central China, state media says

China had logged daily coronavirus cases of more than 34,000 in the mainland on Friday, the country's National Health Commission reported -- a new high since the commission started releasing data in early 2020.

Earlier in the week, Chinese authorities said they would move away from citywide lockdowns and instead focus on isolating individual buildings where positive COVID-19 cases are reported.

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