China ushers in New Year with muted celebrations ahead of Olympics
Beijing, Jan 31 (EFE).- China will usher in a new lunar year on Monday night with muted celebrations in large cities as Beijing keeps a tight rein on Covid-19 restrictions ahead of the Winter Olympics.
China has recorded several outbreaks in January, including the first one fuelled by the highly contagious Omicron variant in the northeastern city of Tianjin.
Although Tianjin last week declared “a complete victory” after applying a slew of methods, including selective lockdowns and widespread PCR testing, other regions such as the eastern province of Zhejiang or the northeastern province of Heilongjiang have recorded soaring infection rates in the last hours.
Festivities to mark the Year of the Tiger will kick off Monday night and last until Saturday, amid travel restrictions and watered-down celebrations.
Little has changed since last year’s New Year’s eve.
China continues to have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to Covid, meaning travel restrictions, mass testing and closed borders to non-residents.
According to official data, a successful vaccination campaign, with over 3 billion administered doses among a population of 1,412 billion inhabitants, has not changed the government’s policy much.
The Chinese New Year is all about reconnecting with family and usually sees a mass exodus of people flocking back to their hometowns.
Some 280 million train trips and 600,000 flights are expected during the festive period.
Local authorities have encouraged residents to spend the party in their usual place of residence, dishing out rewards of up to 500,000 yuan ($78,730) to companies that manage to encourage employees to stay put.
Shenzhen, Hangzhou or Tianjin have canceled traditional events such as fairs, markets and temple gatherings.
In Shanghai, family gatherings in homes must be limited to ten people.
Beijing has struggled to contain rising infection rates.
The southern district of Fengtai, the epicenter of the outbreak, organized the fourth round of PCR testing in less than a week for its entire population of 2.2 million inhabitants. The result of all tests was negative, local authorities said on Sunday.
Public sector workers in Beijing have been barred from leaving the city over the holidays and any incoming visitors must present a negative PCR test conducted in the previous 48 hours.
Anyone coming from a place with just one local infection will not be able to enter the capital.
According to official data, there are 104 active positive Covid cases in Beijing.
All meetings in temples and markets in the Chinese capital have been canceled.
The Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games ruled out a city-wide lockdown two weeks ago.
“We will stick to existing measures unless there is a large outbreak during the event,” the governing body added.