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SHANGHAI: Shanghai is aiming to reach zero-COVID at the community level in the next few days and will then start to steadily ease traffic restrictions and open shops, the city’s deputy mayor Wu Qing said on Friday.

Though the situation is improving, the fight against China’s biggest-ever COVID-19 outbreak “still requires the joint exertions of every citizen”, Wu told a briefing.

“Our current goal is to achieve social zero in the middle of this month,” Wu said.

“We’ve already seen that the light is getting closer and closer.” When Chinese officials refer to cases “at the community level” they mean outside tightly regulated quarantine zones. Cases outside the quarantine zones are most closely watched for an indication of if the outbreak is spreading or not.

Shanghai is also looking to expand the number of businesses allowed to operate, Wu said, adding that the entire city would resume normal production and life “as soon as possible”.

However, there were still major challenges and rebound risks, he said, especially in older parts of the city, where sanitation infrastructure is weaker.

As the situation improves, Shanghai will allow transport to resume and will also gradually reopen schools, beginning with those grades about to take college or senior high school entrance exams, Wu added.

‘Like a prison’: Shanghai, Beijing ratchet up Covid curbs

Shanghai has been preparing for the end of the lockdown with a “normalised” COVID testing system that will allow residents to get quick tests before going into public places.

Wu told reporters that more than 5,700 testing stations were in operation, with a target of 9,900.

The stations will be able to test people in 15 minutes.

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