China advises phased travel for Lunar New Year to prevent Covid spread

Beijing, Dec 28 (EFE).- The Chinese transport ministry on Wednesday advised those travelling during the holidays for Lunar New Year – the world’s largest annual migration set to take place between Jan. 21-27 in 2023 – to carry out their journeys in a phased manner to prevent large-scale Covid infections.

A guideline issued the ministry says that PCR tests or health QR codes are no longer required for travelling, and orders the pertinent authorities to dismantle any checkposts installed earlier to restrict the passage of vehicles on highways.

The guideline, quoted in local media, said that in order to ensure safe family reunions, cities should attempt to organize the journeys in phases and the transport department should increase the frequency of services to satisfy the additional demand.

The ministry said that if a large-scale Covid outbreak appears, emergency plans should be implemented to avoid suspending mediums of transport.

According to the ministry, this year the number of passengers was set to rise substantially, which would require ensuring normal supply of energy, food and basic necessities, as well as transporting vaccines, testing kits and other medical equipment.

Easing of restrictions by Chinese authorities earlier this month has resulted in a wave of infections with daily caseloads estimated in millions in some states, even as national data is not available since the National Health Commission (NHC) stopped releasing the daily number of infections over the past weekend.

On Tuesday, the Chinese State Council’s Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism said that it would now report Covid deaths and serious cases in the country only on a weekly basis and later issue the reports every month, according to local media reports.

On Monday, the NHC said that from Jan. 8, Covid-19 would stop being a category A disease – the highest risk-level that requires stringent measures – and be classified in category B, marking an end to the “zero-Covid” policy in place for nearly three years.

Subsequently, the reports on deaths and serious cases of the disease would be issued weekly and as the pandemic evolves, become monthly, the mechanism said, without offering further details.

The data would also not include the number of imported or local cases, as was the practice earlier.

As per social media testimonies, hospitals in major cities such as Beijing have been having trouble dealing with all the patients during the ongoing surge.

Last week, the World Health Organization expressed concern over Covid-related developments in China and demanded “more information,” but the Chinese foreign ministry responded by saying that Beijing had been sharing data in an “open, timely and transparent” manner since the beginning of the pandemic.

The Chinese government had claimed in the beginning of December that conditions were suitable for easing measures as the virus was causing less deaths.

The official press has also underplayed the risk of the omicron virus through articles and experts’ interviews, even as authorities have eased restrictions.

The policy change came about as prolonged restrictions triggered protests across the country in late November after 10 people were killed in a fire at a building allegedly under Covid confinement in Urumqi (northwestern China). EFE


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