BEIJING– While China’s top leaders commemorated revolutionary martyrs on Friday, far fewer Chinese are expected to travel during the upcoming “Golden Week” National Day holiday amid tightening anti-COVID-19 restrictions and calls for health officials to get people to stay put.
China’s Ministry of Transportation estimates that some 210 million road trips will be made during the week-long holiday that starts on Saturday, down 30% from the same time last year.
China remains the only major country that has yet to reopen and continues to enforce strict case-tracing, quarantine and mask-wearing policies, along with ongoing lockdowns affecting millions and manipulation of health designations to prevent people from traveling. .
China’s railways are also expected to see a 50% drop in travel, with some 68.5 million passenger trips between September 28 and October 1. 8, according to state television network CGTN.
The holiday is often seen as a barometer of consumer spending, and in the days leading up to the pandemic, many Chinese residents jumped at the chance to travel within or outside the country.
However, China’s international borders remain largely closed, and those who make it must complete a mandatory quarantine at a designated facility, part of a “zero-COVID” strategy that has been criticized at home and by the World Health Organization. United Nations Health. .
The hard-line approach is cited as one of the reasons China’s economic growth rate is expected to fall to just 2.8% this year, according to the World Bank. But China credits the policy for keeping its number of cases and deaths much lower than other major nations, though its figures have been widely disputed.
The country reported 156 new infections for Thursday and another 711 asymptomatic infections. Another 610 were reported as imported cases.
Health officials have advised residents to avoid traveling between provinces during the holidays, stating that increased movement will increase transmission risks in the country.
Authorities have also said that those traveling between different provinces must take a coronavirus test upon arrival at their destination.
China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism also urged people to avoid visiting places with COVID-19 risks and practice social distancing while traveling.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and other top leaders attended a ceremony in Beijing on Friday to pay tribute to martyrs in the struggle to establish the communist state, aided a month before a summit of Communist Party leaders.
The annual Martyrs’ Day ceremony honors those who lost their lives in the country’s struggle for independence, on the eve of October 1. 1 National Day marking the establishment of the Communist People’s Republic of China.
Veterans, students and representatives from all walks of life, following Xi and other top officials, paid their respects and laid chrysanthemums at the foot of the Monument to the People’s Heroes in the center of Beijing’s sprawling Tiananmen Square.
Xi, considered the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, is expected to further consolidate his power at the 20th Communist Party Congress that starts in mid-October and lasts for a week.
Meanwhile, the city of Sanya in Hainan province, known for its resorts and beaches, lifted many COVID-19 restrictions after it went into lockdown amid a local outbreak that left tens of thousands of tourists stranded on the island. city.
Since September 29, public transport has resumed in the city and the ban on dine-in services has been lifted. Attractions were also allowed to reopen ahead of the Golden Week holiday, with capacity limited to 75%.