Chinese state broadcaster cuts shots of maskless fans at World Cup as Covid protests spread

China's state broadcaster is reportedly cutting close-up shots of maskless fans at the football World Cup as protests against Beijing's strict Covid-19 measures rage across the country.

Thousands of people in China have taken to the streets in a rare show of defiance against the Communist government and its "zero-Covid" policy, which aims to stub the Covid outbreak at every flare-up by imposing draconian lockdowns.

The Asian giant has over the past week placed millions of people under strict restrictions and implemented mass testing as the country battles a record number of Covid-19 cases since the first detection of the virus in late 2019.

During a live broadcast of Sunday's match between Japan and Costa Rica, China's state broadcaster CCTV replaced close-up shots of fans in the stadium with images of players, officials, or the stadium, AFP reported.

CCTV Sports showed long shots of the stadium crowd where it was difficult to make out individual faces.

Images of maskless fans enjoying the World Cup in Qatar stadiums have underscored to many frustrated Chinese the difference between their country's Covid curbs and a world that has moved on.

China is the last major economy to impose lockdowns and lengthy quarantines for its residents.

People had earlier shared their growing sense of isolation from the outside world on Chinese social media platforms.

"Is this the same world as ours?" asked one Weibo user from Sichuan province, according to Reuters.

"Have they done a Covid test?" wrote another, mocking the routine testing requirements in China.

"Why aren't they wearing masks?"

Protests continued Monday in the streets of Beijing and Shanghai as demonstrators called for president Xi Jinping to resign.

Hundreds of people massed outside Urumqi’s government offices over the weekend after a deadly fire killed 10 people in Xinjiang. “Lift lockdowns,” the crowd chanted.

Some Shanghai protesters carried flowers and candles and sang the national anthem, while others expressed their anger against the government, yelling: “Xi Jinping, step down, Communist Party, step down”, “unlock Xinjiang, unlock China”, “[we] do not want PCR [tests], [we] want freedom” and “press freedom”.

The Communist Party responded to the criticism by detaining protesters, including a BBC journalist.

Despite the widespread protests, Chinese authorities have affirmed their commitment to a severe “zero-Covid” strategy.

China on Monday reported a fifth straight daily record of new local cases of 40,052, with mega-cities Guangzhou and Chongqing struggling to contain outbreaks.