Hong Kong (CNN) – China is in action again. With October 1 coming, millions are expected to pack highways, trains and aircraft for the National Day holiday, one of the busiest times of travel in the world’s most populous country.
The eight-day holiday is China’s first major holiday since it emerged from an outbreak of coronovirus. Although life has become largely normal in recent months, the upcoming “Golden Week” holiday will be an ambitious test of China’s success in eradicating the virus – and a much-anticipated increase for its economic recovery.
Last year, according to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, a total of 782 million domestic trips were made during the holiday, generating approximately 650 billion yuan ($ 95 billion) of tourism revenue.
Tourists crowd the Leshan Giant Buddha in China’s Sichuan Province during the National Day holiday in 2019.
Liu Zhongjun / China News Service / VCG / Getty Image
The ministry predicts 550 million domestic visits to be made this year, while China’s largest online travel agency Sitrip estimates the number will be up more than 70% – 600 million – from last year.
The scale of mass movement in such a short time is unimaginable in many parts of the world, where governments are still struggling to control the growing transition. In the United States, the number of coronovirus cases was 7 million over the weekend. Much of Europe is now in the grip of a second wave of infection; Even countries such as Greece and Croatia have largely avoided the first wave, as tourists have taken summer vacations after reopening Europe’s internal borders in June.
But for now, the virus is of little concern to Chinese holidaymakers, which is close to China’s zero local broadcasts and some of the world’s most strict border control measures.
29-year-old Chen Qianmi from the southern city of Guangzhou flew to Shanghai on Tuesday for his vacation. She said that she was not worried about the virus, although she still took precautions.
“I think China has very good control (virus),” she said. “I am wearing a mask and bring alcohol wipes with me specifically before eating to clean my hands – although in Shanghai, some people now wear masks.”
Chinese security personnel keep an eye on the crowds on a popular walking shopping street during the ‘Golden Week’ holiday in Shanghai in 2017.
AFP Contributor / AFP / AFP via Getty Image
Display of confidence
Coronovirus, first found in the central Chinese city of Wuhan last December before spreading worldwide, has mainly been contained in China since March. In the following months, small-scale outbreaks have erupted occasionally – from the country’s north-east to the capital Beijing and the far western region of Xinjiang, but all were covered through stringent lockdown measures and large-scale testing programs.
China has not reported any locally transmitted symptomatic cases since mid-August, and foreign arrivals and workers are being rigorously investigated due to exposure to the virus. Last week, it detected its first local asymptomatic infection in a month, testing positive for the virus in routine screening after two port workers unloaded frozen imported seafood in Qingdao.
Two residents walk in an empty park during the Lunar New Year holiday on January 27 in Wuhan, China.
Stringer / Getty Images
The sense of control contrasted with the anxiety and foreboding that oversaw the last major visit to China – the Lunar New Year holiday in late January. Subsequently, outbreaks of coronovirus were triggered by local authorities in Wuhan, as health workers were initially silenced trying to sound the alarm. Two days before Lunar New Year’s Day, the Chinese government ordered an unprecedented lockout on the city, but by then, the virus had already spread outside other provinces and the country, as hundreds of millions of Chinese people went home for family reunions. Used to lead or take holidays abroad.
For more than eight months, China’s restrictions on domestic movement have been lifted. Officially, some cities still require passengers to produce a green health code on their smartphones at train stations and airports, to show that they are safe to travel, but implement behavior. May be loose in.
In a sign of the government’s belief in keeping the virus under control, the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that domestic travel could be arranged as “normal” for the upcoming holiday, all cities in mainland China Is marked as the following. Risk for coronavirus.
But the center still recommends travelers follow local epidemic control measures, wear masks on trains, flights and crowded places, and keep a 1-meter (3.2 ft) distance to tourist destinations, the last of which It is not impossible to observe. , Given the size of the crowd that often submerged popular sites during Chinese holidays.
Last week, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism ordered tourist sites to be restricted to 75% during the Golden Week, to the extent of 50% from previous months. To facilitate contact tracing, visitors are required to register online in advance.
On September 3, tourists wearing face masks outside the Yellow Crane Tower in Wuhan, China.
Hector Retail / AFP / AFP via Getty Image
Chinese CDC chief epidemiologist Wu Xunyou told state broadcaster CCTV earlier this month that there is no need to impose additional restrictions for domestic travel during the National Day holiday, as coronavirus is no longer running in society.
“It is now impossible to contract the virus in a social environment,” he said. “While we are still detecting dozens of imported cases among passengers arriving in China on international flights, the imported cases are managed in a closed loop and will not spread to society, and therefore will not have much impact on domestic residents. “
Promote domestic travel
Chinese officials – including the Chinese CDC and the Foreign Ministry – have urged Chinese citizens to avoid unnecessary foreign travel, citing the still-raging epidemic worldwide.
The Golden Week holiday – the longest in China, along with the Lunar New Year holiday – has traditionally seen a large number of middle-class Chinese travel abroad. Last year, more than 7 million foreign trips were made during the holiday, with Japan and Thailand among the top destinations, government data showed.
Chinese tourists wait for their tour bus in Guinja Shopping District on October 02, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan.
Tomohiro Ohsumi / Getty Images AsiaPack / Getty Images
But this year, given the various visa restrictions and quarantine requirements imposed around the world, as well as the lack of international flights, foreign trips will be made practically impossible. Returning to China, travelers face two weeks of rigorous quarantine – spending at least half the time in government-appointed hotels.
The only exception is Macau, which waived quarantine requirements in July for main passengers who received a negative test result for coronovirus for seven days. Last week, mainland China resumed tourist visas entirely for the semi-autonomous region, over time, for the National Day holiday.
As the Chinese turn to the holiday-making domestic destinations, local governments compete to attract tourists. According to Ctrip, more than 20 provincial and municipal governments have issued travel vouchers, while some 1,500 tourist destinations across China offer free or discounted tickets.
China’s railway operator, China State Railway Group, was expected to ride a total of 108 million trains 28 September to 8 October. To cope with the increased demand, an additional 1,200 trains have been added to the service, but some tickets along popular routes have been cut anyway.
Some flights have also been sold out. Chinese online travel booking site Qinar estimates that more than 15 million domestic flight tickets will be sold for Golden Week, a 10% increase from 2019, partly due to a drop in the airfare price.
And on Chinese highways, massive traffic jams are expected to occur again this year. According to the Ministry of Transport, an average of 51 million highway trips per day are expected during the eight-day holiday, a 1% to 3% increase from the previous year.
Tourists take a selfie at the Yellow Crane Tower in Wuhan on September 3, 2020.
Hector Retail / AFP / AFP via Getty Image
Wuhan, the outbreak’s original epicenter, has become a popular destination for Chinese tourists since its lockout was lifted in April. Last month, Hubei Province, of which Wuhan is the capital, announced that about 400 of its tourist attractions would be open to tourists for free by the end of the year. On a booking platform established by the province since the announcement, more than 3.74 million tickets to tourist destinations in Wuhan were booked in just one month, according to Hubei Daily.
The Yellow Crane Tower, a famous landmark of Wuhan, topped the list of most sought-after attractions for Golden Week according to Sitrip.