Clip about central Chinese city's Covid measures in 2021 shared with false 'restrictions returning' claim

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As China battled a wave of coronavirus cases in December 2022 in the wake of the government's sudden decision to lift years of lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing, a video was viewed thousands of times in social media posts that falsely claimed this loosening of Covid restrictions was being reversed. The posts said authorities in the central city of Xi’an had announced that citywide Covid tests would be carried out and a negative result would be needed to enter shops and public areas. The video, however, shows a government official’s statement from a year earlier.

"The rules keep changing. Xi'an started requiring negative Covid results within the past 48 hours again and its credibility has collapsed," reads in part the Chinese-language caption of a tweet shared here on December 18, 2022.

"It seems the Chinese Communist Party believes that testing is the best way to treat the coronavirus," it adds.

Xi'an is the capital of the central province of Shaanxi.

The 21-second-long video has been viewed more than 3,500 times and appears to show an official speaking at a press conference.

"A new round of Covid tests will start from December 21. At present, preparations are in progress," he says in Mandarin.

"From now on, all companies, communities and public areas in the city will check for Covid negative results from within the last 48 hours."

Text superimposed on the video also says the city will check people's Covid test results.

The video appears to have been taken from Douyin, with watermarks for the video platform and an account number visible in the top-left and bottom-right of the video frame.

Screenshot of the video shared on Twitter, captured on December 21, 2022

The same video was shared alongside similar claims elsewhere on Twitter here, here and here; on YouTube here; and on Douyin here, here and here.

Comments from some users suggest they believed the video depicted a recent announcement.

"Mass Covid testing a while after opening up, it's pushing the remaining negative people to become positive," one user commented under a post.

"Such irresponsible officials should go to jail," wrote another.

It circulated as Covid cases in China soared, with hospitals struggling and pharmacy shelves stripped bare in the wake of the government's sudden decision to lift years of lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing.

The loosening of Covid restrictions on December 7 followed protests against the hardline strategy that grew into calls for greater political freedoms.

Prior to the loosening of restrictions, a negative test result within the past 48 hours had been a prerequisite for entry to public places in many Chinese cities.

The Shaanxi provincial government also announced an easing of Covid controls on Weibo on December 7.

China's National Health Commission said the frequency and scope of PCR testing would be reduced under the new guidelines.

The video, however, is old and has been shared in a false context. It in fact shows a Xi'an official making an announcement in December 2021.

Resurfaced state broadcaster video

The account number visible in the watermark on the video corresponds to the Douyin account of the Xi'an branch of the Shaanxi Broadcasting Corporation.

The state broadcaster published a statement on the account here on December 18 about the video circulating on social media.

"Recently, a short video about Xi'an checking from today negative Covid test results no more than 48 hours old has circulated in online groups. The video was created by us on December 20, 2021 based on Xi'an's 31st Covid epidemic press conference," reads the statement.

"Some people downloaded this video and purposely circulated it online without showing its date and details."

The original video is no longer available on the Douyin page, but video from the same press conference was published by the Shaanxi Broadcasting Corporation on Weibo here on December 21, 2021.

The Weibo video was filmed from a different angle, but the official and his comments are the same as from the video that was shared in a false context.

The clips used in the false posts correspond to sections beginning at the Weibo video's 12:15 mark and the 15:09 mark.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the video shared in the false posts (left) and the press conference video (right):

Screenshot comparison of the video shared in the false posts (left) and the press conference video (right)

As of December 22, 2022, AFP journalists have not found any official statement about resuming mass Covid testing or the checking of negative test results in Xi'an.