Top Asian News 4:38 a.m. GMT

China rings in Lunar New Year with most COVID rules lifted

BEIJING (AP) — People across China rang in the Lunar New Year on Sunday with large family gatherings and crowds visiting temples after the government lifted its strict “zero-COVID” policy, marking the biggest festive celebration since the pandemic began three years ago. The Lunar New Year is the most important annual holiday in China. Each year is named after one of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac in a repeating cycle, with this year being the Year of the Rabbit. For the past three years, celebrations were muted in the shadow of the pandemic. With the easing of most COVID-19 restrictions, many people could finally make their first trip back to their hometowns to reunite with their families without worrying about the hassles of quarantine, potential lockdowns and suspension of travel.