2 Billion People To Travel In China’s “Great Migration” Over Next 40 Days

2 Billion People To Travel In China’s “Great Migration” Over Next 40 Days

China’s Ministry of Transport expects over 2 billion people to travel over the next 40 days.


China marked the first day of “chun yun” on Saturday, the 40-day Lunar New Year travel period known before the pandemic as the world’s largest annual migration of people, preparing for a surge in travelers and the spread of COVID-19. infections.

This Lunar New Year public holiday, which officially begins on January 21, will be the first since 2020 without domestic travel restrictions.

Over the past month, China has seen the dramatic dismantling of its “zero-COVID” regime after historic protests against a policy that included frequent testing, restricted movement, mass lockdowns and severe damage to the world’s No.2 economy.

Investors hope the reopening will eventually revive a $17 trillion economy suffering its slowest growth in nearly half a century.

But the sudden changes have exposed many of China’s 1.4 billion people to the virus for the first time, triggering a wave of infections that is overwhelming some hospitals, emptying pharmacy shelves of medicine and causing long lines at crematoriums.

China’s Ministry of Transport said on Friday it expects more than 2 billion passengers to travel over the next 40 days, a 99.5% year-on-year increase and reaching 70.3% of 2019’s travel numbers.

Reaction to that news online was mixed, with some commenters hailing the freedom to return to their homeland and celebrate the Lunar New Year with family for the first time in years.

However, many others said they would not travel this year, with the worry of infecting elderly relatives a common theme.

“I dare not return to my hometown, for fear of returning the poison,” said one comment on the Twitter-like Weibo.

There are widespread concerns that the large migration of workers to cities in their hometowns will cause a surge in infections in smaller towns and rural areas less equipped with ICU beds and ventilators to deal with them.

Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist at Capital Economics, acknowledged this risk in a note on Friday, but went on to say that “in the big cities that make up the bulk of China’s economy, it seems more the evil is over”.

Ernan Cui, an analyst at Gavekal Dragonomics in Beijing, cited several online surveys showing that the current wave of infections may have peaked in most regions, noting that “there was not much difference between urban and rural areas.”


Sunday marks the reopening of China’s border with Hong Kong and the end of China’s requirement for international travelers to enter quarantine. This effectively opened the door for many Chinese to travel abroad for the first time since the borders were closed nearly three years ago, without fear of having to be quarantined upon their return.

More than a dozen countries are now requiring tests for COVID from Chinese travelers after the World Health Organization said China’s official data on the virus underreported the true extent of its outbreak.

Chinese officials and state media have defended their handling of the outbreak, downplaying the severity of the outbreak and denouncing foreign travel requirements for its residents.

On Saturday in Hong Kong, people who had made appointments had to queue for about 90 minutes at a center for PCR tests needed for travel to countries including mainland China.


For most of the pandemic, China poured resources into an extensive PCR testing program to track and trace COVID-19 cases, but the focus is now shifting to vaccines and treatment.

In Shanghai, for example, the city government announced on Friday the end of free PCR tests for residents from January 8.

A circular published by four government ministries on Saturday signaled a reallocation of financial resources for treatment, outlining a plan for public finances to subsidize 60% of treatment costs by March 31.

Meanwhile, sources told Reuters that China is in talks with Pfizer Inc to secure a license that would allow the domestic drugmaker to manufacture and distribute a generic version of the US firm’s COVID-19 antiviral drug Paxlovid in China.

Many Chinese have tried to buy the drug abroad and ship it to China.

On the vaccine front, China’s CanSino Biologics Inc announced that it has started trial production for its COVID-19 mRNA booster vaccine, known as CS-2034.

China has relied on nine domestically developed COVID vaccines approved for use, including inactivated vaccines, but none have been adapted to target the highly transmissible Omicron variant and its offshoots currently in circulation.

The country’s overall vaccination rate is above 90%, but the rate for adults who have had booster shots falls to 57.9% and to 42.3% for people aged 80 and over, according to government data released last month.

China reported three new deaths from COVID on the mainland on Friday, bringing its official death toll from the virus to 5,267, one of the lowest in the world. International health experts believe Beijing’s narrow definition of COVID deaths does not reflect a true count, and some predict more than a million deaths this year.

(Other than the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published by a shared source.)

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