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Workers in protective gear walk by dismantled barricades after authorities' eased COVID-19 curbs in Haizhu district in Guangzhou in south China's Guangdong province on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. Image Credit: AP

Shanghai: Beijing residents on Saturday cheered the removal of COVID-19 testing booths while Shenzhen said it would no longer require commuters to present test results to travel, as an easing of China’s virus curbs gathered pace.

Although daily cases are near all-time highs, some cities are taking steps to loosen COVID testing requirements and quarantine rules as China looks to make its zero-COVID policy more targeted.

The southern city of Shenzhen announced it would no longer require people to show a negative COVID test result to use public transport or enter parks, following similar moves by Chengdu and Tianjin.

Many testing booths in Beijing have been shut, as the capital stops demanding negative test results as a condition to enter places such as supermarkets and prepares to do so for subways from Monday. Many other venues, including offices, still require testing.

A video showing workers in Beijing removing a testing booth by crane onto a truck went viral on Chinese social media on Friday.

China began tweaking its approach last month, urging localities to become more targeted. Initial reactions, however, were marked with confusion and even tighter lockdowns as cities scrambled to keep a lid on rising cases.

China is set to further announce a nationwide easing of testing requirements as well as allowing positive cases and close contacts to isolate at home under certain conditions, people familiar with the matter told Reuters this week.

On Friday, some Beijing neighbourhoods posted guidelines on social media on how positive cases can quarantine at home, a landmark move that marks a break from official guidance to send such people to central quarantine.

Still, the relief has also been accompanied by concerns, especially from people who feel more exposed to the disease.

Many analysts say they still do not anticipate a significant reopening until at least after March, as China must first achieve results in a just-launched vaccination drive targeting the elderly.