STORY: Amid a wave of COVID-19 infections across the country, China on Saturday (January 7) marked the first day of “chun yun”, the 40-day period of Lunar New Year travel… the first since 2020 without domestic travel restrictions.
More than two billion passengers are expected to take trips over the next 40 days, according to China’s ministry of transportation.
The Lunar New Year holiday officially runs from January 21.
There are widespread concerns that the great migration of workers in cities to their hometowns will cause a surge in infections in smaller towns and rural areas that are less equipped to handle the sick.
This Beijing resident said he’s concerned but will make the trip anyway.
“I haven’t gotten COVID-19 yet, so if the relatives are not positive, I’m afraid of carrying the virus back with me and infecting them. That would affect their health. But they have recovered from COVID-19 for a while now, so I am planning to visit them and spend the Lunar New Year with them. My grandparents have also told me many times that they miss me a lot.”
Over the last month China has seen the dramatic dismantling of its "zero-COVID" regime following historic protests.
While investors are hoping the reopening will reinvigorate China’s $17-trillion economy... the abrupt changes have exposed many of China's 1.4 billion people to the virus for the first time.
Chinese officials and state media have defended the handling of the outbreak and downplayed the severity of the surge.
Authorities say they are boosting grassroots medical services, opening more rural fever clinics and instituting plans for high-risk patients.
China reported three new COVID deaths on Friday, but international health experts believe Beijing’s narrow definition of COVID deaths does not reflect a true toll... and some predict more than a million could die this year.