Local governments in China have found themselves caught between a rocky relaxation and a hard lockdown since Beijing announced an easing in Covid-19 rules last week. With public patience running thin and local government resources stretched to breaking point after three years of draconian measures, the 20 changes outlined on Friday were meant to reduce economic and social disruptions. China is eager to revive its economy and many of the measures were attempts to make it easier for international travellers, particularly investors, to enter the country. But at home, many residents and officials found the changes confusing, or even contradictory. Under the new rules, local governments were told not to carry out mass testing for the coronavirus, a strategy that has been common as part of the country’s zero-Covid efforts. Instead, the instructions now are to target specific flats or blocks with lockdowns or run the risk of punishments for excessive control measures. At the same time, the overall goal for local governments remains the same: they have to contain the virus and prevent large outbreaks of Covid-19. Members of the public were also unprepared for how to respond to the relaxed rules. After years of sacrificing freedom of movement to avoid infections , there is rising discontent about the controls. But there is also persistent fear about infections and massive outbreaks, given the repeated official line that a Covid-19 infection is dangerous. That fear is apparent in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, where case numbers are rising. Some parents have expressed fear about sending their children to kindergarten after hearing that PCR tests are no longer required for attendance. In addition, residents have scrambled for supplies of the Chinese herbal influenza treatment Lianhua Qingwen , according to mainland media reports. The city government also reopened some free testing booths on Tuesday after public complaints about their closures. Authorities in Chaoyang, a district in the capital Beijing, have also had to reopen some free PCR test booths following complaints. Residents have speculated that the stations were closed because the government did not want to see a leap in the number of cases caused by the many office workers who commute into Chaoyang for work. If they test positive in Chaoyang, they are counted as positive cases in the district even if they live somewhere else. However, the government said it was only trying to use resources more efficiently. On the internet, the chatter was about buying respirators for home use – talk that sent up share prices for manufacturers of the devices on Monday. Some local governments have already taken measures into their own – often idiosyncratic – hands. In Kangbashi district in the Inner Mongolian city of Ordos, authorities have banned close contacts under home quarantine from cooking because, it said, the virus could spread via kitchen exhaust fans. It also said data showed that 26 per cent of Covid-19 infections occurred as people queued up for PCR tests and so it would distribute PCR test kits to residents for them to collect their own samples. It did not specify whether the data was national or local. In Xinjiang, many online users complain that they have been locked at home for months with no sign of a let-up. To end the chaos at the local level, consistent messages should be sent to the public and officials. Instead of relying on PCR tests, Beijing should encourage the use of rapid tests at home. It should also give clear instructions to the public about what they should do if they test positive while having mild symptoms, including how to protect other members in the family, what medicine to store at home, and what symptoms to watch for. The government should also quickly expand the capacity of hospitals and focus the resources on the most serious cases. Relaxing the policy gradually is the right direction, but it is also essential to send clear and consistent messages and roll out proper public health education.