State-run television network CCTV Sports substituted photos of players, officials, or the football stadium for close-up shots of maskless spectators waving flags during the live broadcast of the group match between Japan and Costa Rica on Sunday (Nov. 27).

In order to filter out crowd shots, broadcasters already started doing so before the match between Australia and Tunisia. This activity was widely shared on social media.

China is the only other developed country still making an effort to contain the domestic spread of COVID-19 through sudden lockdowns, prolonged quarantines, and widespread testing efforts. Close-up shots of fans in masks at the World Cup in Qatar are being edited by China's state broadcaster after initial broadcasting incited riots on the streets of the country due to the severe COVID-19 restrictions.

In comparison to the live streaming of the same game on online sites like Douyin, China's counterpart to TikTok, CCTV Sports featured fewer crowd images and farther away crowd shots in which it was impossible to distinguish individual faces.

On Tuesday, an open letter that questioned the nation's COVID-19 regulations and questioned whether China was "on the same planet" as Qatar gained traction on the well-known WeChat messaging app before being taken down by censors. As of Sunday, tens of millions of people were under some sort of lockdown in major cities like Beijing, Guangzhou, and Chongqing, in contrast to the boisterous World Cup crowds that have enraged many Chinese social media users.

In a rare display of populist rage against the government, hundreds came to the streets on Sunday in Beijing and Shanghai to protest China's zero-COVID policy. 

Due to the rapidly spreading Omicron strain, daily cases in the nation reached 29,157 on Wednesday. While this number is low compared to other nations, it is getting close to the previous high set earlier this year. According to Nomura analysts, authorities have placed more than 25% of China's population under some sort of lockdown as of Tuesday, in contrast to the boisterous World Cup crowds that have enraged many Chinese social media users.

"Some people are watching World Cup matches in person with no masks, some have been locked at home for a month, locked on campus for two months without even being able to step out the door," a Guangdong-based user on the Twitter-like Weibo platform wrote.

Recently, there have been a few isolated protests as a result of the sudden disruptions and seemingly arbitrary limitations. This month, hundreds of people in Guangzhou, southern China, defied a lockdown by taking to the streets.