Chinese people are afraid to travel during Golden Week

Golden Week, a seven-day national holiday in China, this year is not as vibrant as previous years when many people chose to stay at home instead of travel.

Covid-19 control measures are tightened before the national day holiday from October 1 to October 7 in China. Officials estimate that people made about 68.5 million trips by train from September 28 to October 8, the lowest level during the Golden Week holiday since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out.

High-speed rail is the most popular means of transportation in China for medium and long journeys. About 110 million trips were recorded during the National Day holiday last year, down from 120 million in 2020, according to the Ministry of Railways. In 2019, before the pandemic began, the number was 138 million.

Flag raising ceremony to celebrate National Day at Tiananmen Square, Beijing, October 1.  Photo: Xinhua

Flag raising ceremony to celebrate China’s National Day at Tiananmen Square, Beijing, October 1. Image: Xinhua

Li Yan, 35, who works in the financial industry in Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu province, said he misses the comfortable travel days before Covid.

“Initially, I could still travel to another province, just wearing a mask. After that, the scope was limited to within the province. This year, the government advised to stay in the city,” Li said. “The advice is in stark contrast to the pre-Covid days, when I spent my holidays sipping coffee in Paris or looking at red maples in Kyodo.”

China closed its border in the spring of 2020 in an effort to prevent the spread of Covid-19. As the situation eased, hundreds of millions of people unable to travel abroad began flocking to locations across the mainland for the National Day holiday that year, contributing to the country’s economic recovery.

Tourism revenue during the holiday season is still down 30% year-over-year but retail sales are up 5%, indicating a recovery in consumer confidence after China successfully brought Covid-19 under control. a series of measures such as widespread testing, contact tracing, isolation. At the end of 2020, China was the only major economy to report positive GDP growth.

However, in 2021, the Delta strain outbreak caused people to limit travel, Beijing tightened restrictions when the epidemic broke out during the summer in Jiangsu and Fujian. Millions of officials and employees working in state agencies or enterprises were asked not to leave their home provinces. As a result, spending on holiday travel decreased by 4.7% compared to 2020, the number of train trips also decreased by 1.5%.

A baby is let out by his mother in Tiananmen Square on October 1.  Photo: Global Times

A baby is let out by his mother in Tiananmen Square on October 1. Image: Global Times

Li said she was no longer excited to travel after her trip to Xinjiang last August. “I was stuck in a hotel in Xinjiang for about two weeks and was not allowed to leave until I had completed dozens of Covid tests because I came from Nanjing, where the outbreak was at the time,” she said. “The experience was so bad and since then, I choose to stay at home every holiday. I don’t have the courage to travel anymore.”

In addition to regular testing, Chinese are also encouraged to stay in cities from September 10 to the end of October to prevent the Omicron strain from spreading.

Passengers traveling by plane, train, intercity bus and ferry must have a negative nCoV PCR test result within 48 hours. The National Health Commission also urged people traveling between provinces and regions to voluntarily undergo PCR testing upon arrival.

College students are asked to stay at school during this time, and parents are also told to avoid unnecessary travel with their elementary and middle school age children. Students leaving the city must self-quarantine upon their return, with Beijing being seven days.

Meng Shimao, 70, who lives in Xiangtan, Hunan province, said she originally planned to take her 11-year-old granddaughter to Beijing for the holiday.

“I think every Chinese person wants to go to the capital and National Day is the best occasion. I want to go to Tiananmen Square, see the flag raising ceremony and flower exhibition for National Day and the 20th party congress. “, he said. “The scene on the TV looks very nice.”

But Mr. Meng abandoned the plan when he learned of the restriction. “I hope to be able to go to Beijing next year. Hopefully then Covid will be gone.”

Ren Wanle, an analyst with Lubang tourism company in Henan province, said the week was no longer “golden” when people were advised not to travel. “Restrictive regulations make tourists afraid, greatly affecting the tourism industry,” Ren wrote.

Hong Hanh (Theo SCMP)

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