From testing booths to libraries and food stalls

Tens of thousands of PCR testing booths are littered across China, with many residents just a 15-minute walk away from a swabbing point.

Now that its zero-Covid-19 policy has abruptly ended, cities are left with the problem of what to do with them.

Some local governments and communities are coming together to creatively reconfigure these unwanted relics into new landmarks.

Suzhou, a city 100km west of Shanghai, has gone further to reanimate these booths than anywhere else.

The local government offered around 30 empty kiosks for free to entrepreneurs to convert into food and souvenir stalls as part of a Chinese New Year market, selling speciality produce and local snacks.

The booths will continue to be available for merchant use to bolster consumption and tourism efforts, the district’s officials told Chinese media.

Elsewhere in Suzhou, booths have been transformed into libraries for residents to read and donate books. Others have become rest stations for sanitation workers and cleaners, offering microwave ovens and hot water. A few have even become mini fire stations stored with safety equipment.

Outside the city’s rail station, officials from the Human Resources and Social Security Bureau have converted a row of testing booths into employment help centres for migrant workers.

The change is dramatic, considering that as recent as early December residents still lined up in the hundreds to have their throats swabbed by so-called “big whites”, the ubiquitous white-clad enforcers of Covid-19 rules.

“I’ve seen some of the empty booths idling around. It brings back bad memories,” said Janice Qu, a housewife in her 40s in Shanghai.

“I like the idea of giving them a makeover. There could be some nice business opportunities.”

Repurposing testing booths could play a role in the recovery of urban life and helping communities heal from trauma. — Bloomberg

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