(Bloomberg) -- Less than two days after Beijing announced it would roll out China’s first ever vaccine mandate, authorities withdrew the policy in a rare concession to criticism from residents. 

People will be able to enter all public venues if they can provide a negative Covid test result that’s no older than 72 hours and have their temperature checked, an unidentified official said in an interview with state-backed Beijing Daily that was published late Thursday night. The city will continue to promote vaccination on a voluntary, informed and consent basis, the official said.

Read more: Beijing Rolls Out China’s First Ever Covid Vaccine Mandate

The policy, announced Wednesday and intended to come into effect on July 11, would have limited entry to public venues such as cinemas, museums, and theaters to only vaccinated people, and required workers in certain professions to get booster shots.

But pushback from the public was swift, with some residents taking to Chinese social media to call the requirement an illegal limitation on their freedom and question how effective the vaccines are against the highly contagious and immune-evasive omicron variant.

“The reversal shows the power of public opinions,” Hu Xijin, former editor-in-chief at the Communist Party-backed Global Times and an influential commentator, said on his official Weibo account. “The Chinese society is dominated by government. They timely backed up in the face of a public pushback. That means they accept the public’s view of the vaccine mandate as illegal.”

The backdown from authorities is an unusual step in a country that wields immense power over residents’ lives. Daily movements are already restricted by a system of health codes, hundreds of millions of people are subjected to frequent testing and China requires mandatory quarantine for anyone infected and their close contacts.

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It also underscores the challenge the government faces in persuading vaccine holdouts, chiefly elderly people with underlying diseases, to get their shots. The low vaccination rate among its most vulnerable groups has been frequently cited as justification for China’s adherence to Covid Zero, which relies on testing and costly lockdowns that have left the country increasingly isolated.

Nearly 90% of China’s 1.4 billion people are fully vaccinated, but the rate falls in older age groups. Beijing’s elderly vaccination rate is above 80%, while Shanghai lags behind at 70%.

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