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China seeks to minimise COVID-19 risk during travel rush

BEIJING (AP) – China is seeking to minimise the possibility of a major new COVID-19 outbreak during this month’s Lunar New Year travel rush following the end of most pandemic containment measures.

The Transportation Ministry on Friday called on travellers to reduce trips and gatherings, particularly if they involve elderly people, pregnant women, small children and those with underlying conditions.

People using public transport are also urged to wear masks and pay special attention to their health and personal hygiene, Vice Minister Xu Chengguang told reporters at a briefing.

The call stopped short of asking citizens to stay home entirely, as the government had since the pandemic began, although some local governments have urged migrant workers not to return home.

Xu said authorities expect more than two billion trips to be made during the weeklong festival season, the most important time for visiting family and friends in the traditional Chinese calendar.

That is nearly double the number of last year and 70.3 per cent over the same period in 2019 before the pandemic hit, Xu said.

Demand for family visits and tourism has “accumulated over the past three years of the pandemic to be met all at once”, Xu said.

“We encourage people to make travel plans based on the situation of themselves and their family members,” he said.

A migrant worker wearing a face mask carries his belonging as he arrived in Beijing, China. PHOTO: AP
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