Millions mark Tomb Sweeping festival under shadow of Covid

Beijing/Hong Kong/Taipei, Apr 5 (EFE).- Millions of Chinese people, both in China and in diaspora communities across Asia and beyond, were visiting the tombs of their ancestors on Tuesday to mark the Qingming festival, although the coronavirus continued to cast a shadow over the holiday.

The festival, also known as Tomb Sweeping Day, sees members of the Han ethnicity in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and ethnic Chinese communities in many countries across Asia, pay their respects to their ancestors by tending to their grave sites and leaving offerings typically ranging from foodstuffs to floral arrangements and photographs of loved ones.

The holiday coincides with warmer spring weather and is normally an opportunity for family get-togethers and outings.

This year, however, against the backdrop of rampant coronavirus infections that are sweeping across the region, with the Chinese megacities of Shanghai and Hong Kong particularly affected by the rising contagion, tomb visits have had to be staggered to avoid large crowds gathering at once, while others have chosen to avoid travel altogether and stay at home.

Many of the offerings reflected people’s current circumstances, with some in Hong Kong leaving paper offerings resembling travel documents as a sign of the persistent effects of the pandemic on people’s lives and their inability to travel freely.

China, which has a strict “zero tolerance” Covid-19 policy, is being battered by a wave of outbreaks attributed to the Omicron variant that is causing record numbers of infections not seen since the start of the pandemic in early 2020.

Many cemeteries, including one in Yanjian on the outskirts of the capital Beijing, have been closed during the festival amid the spiraling infections.

Local authorities have stepped in to provide an eco-friendly alternative by setting up environmental protection incinerators which are equipped with an air purification system that prevents ashes from the burnt offerings from polluting the air.

Beijing and its surrounding areas perpetually struggle with high levels of air pollution. EFE


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