After Chinese authorities lifted COVID-19 curbs that had restricted travel for three years, the number of people travelling within China over the seven-day Lunar New Year holiday increased by 74 per cent from the previous year.
According to statistics cited by state broadcaster CCTV, during the holiday week that ended on Friday, an estimated 226 million domestic trips were made by all means, including planes.
China's ministry of transportation predicted that over two billion passenger trips will be made during the 40-day Lunar New Year season as people return home to be with their families following the relaxation of strict COVID curbs in December.
According to the transport ministry, this compares to about 130 million domestic trips made during the holiday week last year.
Approximately 420 million internal trips were made during the last Lunar New Year holiday before the novel coronavirus emerged in late 2019 in the central city of Wuhan.
In terms of travel, the National Immigration Administration (NIA) reported on Friday that cross-border travel increased by 123.9 per cent, or 2.39 million, in the first six days of the holiday season compared to the same period in 2016.
In China, the Lunar New Year is the most significant holiday of the year because it marks the occasion when the vast majority of people who live and work in affluent coastal cities return to their hometowns and villages for an annual family reunion.
However, for three years, people were warned against travelling over the holiday, and those who insisted ran the risk of being subjected to sudden lockdowns, numerous COVID tests, quarantine, and even reprimands from their work units.
After protests against the restrictions, China dropped its strict "zero COVID" policy in the first few days of December, allowing people to travel and the virus to spread quickly across the nation.
China's rural areas are expected to experience the next wave of infections in the late winter, according to a 17 January alert from the British health analytics company Airfinity.
Additionally, it implied that the spread might be more severe than what is currently evident in urban areas.
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