Beijing, Jan 9 (EFE).- A total of 34.7 million journeys were made on the first day of China’s 40-day holiday period celebrating the Spring Festival, which marks the Lunar New Year, state media reported.
The number of trips on Saturday rose by 38.9 percent over last year, an increase facilitated by the dismantling of the country’s stringent ‘zero Covid’ policy in December, the Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday night.
However, despite the year-on-year increase in the number of journeys, they were 48.6 percent lower than those recorded on the first day of the peak travel season in 2019, the last Lunar New Year before the pandemic.
In December, as part of the dismantling of the ‘zero Covid’ policy, which had been in force for almost three years, the Chinese government lifted restrictions on travel within the country.
Before the lifting of the restrictions, people were required to present a negative PCR test result in order to take a flight or train and their movements were monitored through a national tracking app.
In addition, each city and province had its own policies. In the weeks prior to the withdrawal of the measures, Beijing did not allow the entry of travelers from an area in which a single Covid-19 case had been registered in the previous days.
In 2023, the Lunar New Year, a period during which the Chinese usually return to their homes and which is the world’s biggest human migration, will fall between Jan. 21 and 27.
The 40-day period known as “chunyun” (Spring Festival travel season) will extend from Jan. 7 to Feb. 15 this year.
Recently, China’s health authorities asked rural areas, where many migrant workers in cities will return during the holiday season, to prepare for the spread of Covid-19.
Although the virus has already peaked in some cities in the country, it has yet to hit areas far from urban centers.
In mid-December, the government urged local authorities to prioritize healthcare services in these areas, which have limited medical resources.
In early December, China began dismantling its ‘zero Covid’ policy, which had kept the nation under strict pandemic rules, including lockdowns, regular PCR testing and restrictions on entering and leaving the country.
The raft of Covid rules had been in place for almost three years but were lifted following an unprecedented wave of protests that gripped several key cities.
But the sudden shift from stiff restrictions to freedom has triggered an infection wave that has threatened to overload hospitals, emptied pharmacy shelves and triggered international concern.
The rapid spread of the virus across the country has cast doubts on the reliability of official figures, which have reported just a handful of recent deaths from the disease despite cities and provinces estimating that a significant proportion of their populations have been infected.
On Sunday, China downgraded Covid-19 from a top-level category A infectious disease that indicates the highest risk and whose containment kicks in the most severe measures to a less strict category B that does not require lockdowns and isolation will allow travelers to enter the country without the mandatory quarantine imposed since March of 2020. EFE