Lockdowns in Guangzhou and elsewhere are due to end by Sunday, but authorities have repeatedly extended such restrictions with no explanation.
Beijing has closed city parks and imposed other restrictions as the country faces a new wave of Covid-19 cases, even as millions of people remained under lockdown in the west and south of China.
The country reported 10,729 new cases on Friday, almost all of them testing positive while showing no symptoms.
More than 5 million people were under lockdown on Friday in the southern manufacturing hub Guangzhou and the western megacity Chongqing.
With the bulk of Beijing’s 21 million people undergoing near-daily testing, another 118 new cases were recorded in the sprawling city.
Many city schools switched to online classes, hospitals restricted services and some shops and restaurants were shuttered, with their staff taken to quarantine. Videos on social media showed people in some areas protesting or fighting with police and health workers.
Numerous villages on the capital's outskirts that are home to blue-collar workers whose labour keeps the city running were under lockdown.
Lockdowns in Guangzhou and elsewhere were due to end by Sunday, but authorities have repeatedly extended such restrictions with no explanation.
Chinese leaders had promised on Thursday to respond to public frustration over its severe “zero-Covid” strategy that has confined millions to their homes and severely disrupted the economy.
READ MORE: Chinese cities tighten curbs as Covid outbreaks widen
Passengers to be quarantined for five days
The government said on Friday it was reducing the amount of time incoming passengers would be required to undergo quarantine. The US Embassy this week renewed its advisement for citizens to avoid travel to and within China unless absolutely necessary.
Incoming passengers will only be quarantined for five days, rather than the previous seven, at a designated location, followed by three days of isolation at their place of residence, according to a notice from the State Council, China's Cabinet.
It wasn’t immediately clear when and where the rules would take effect and whether they would apply to foreigners and Chinese citizens alike.
Relaxed standards would also be applied to foreign businesspeople and athletes, in what appeared to be a gradual move toward normalization.
Airlines will no longer be threatened with a two-week-long suspension of flights if five or more passengers tested positive, the regulations said, potentially providing a major expansion of seats on such flights that have shrunk in numbers and soared in price since restrictions were imposed in 2020.
Those flying to China will only need to show a single negative test for the virus within 48 hours of travelling, the rules said. Formerly, two tests within that time period were required.
READ MORE: Global Covid-19 deaths drop by 90%: WHO