The number of journeys during the Lunar New Year vacation inside China increased by 74% from the previous year after authorities lifted COVID-19 travel restrictions, official media said on Saturday. However, the number of journeys was still only half of levels before the pandemic.
However, according to official data, the weekly drop in COVID fatalities was evident.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Saturday that China recorded 6,364 COVID-related deaths between Jan. 20–26, a week that included six days of the holiday break, down from 12,658 the week before.
Lunar New Year is the most important holiday of the year in China, when huge numbers of people working in prosperous coastal cities head to their hometowns and villages for family reunions.
This year’s celebration is the first in three years without any form of lockdown curbs. China abandoned its strict “zero COVID” policy in early December after protests against the restrictions, allowing people to travel and the virus to spread rapidly throughout the country.
Responding to criticism about its coronavirus data, China expanded its definition for COVID death toll to include fatalities in hospitals caused by respiratory failure due to COVID and those whose died from a combination of COVID and other disease. Critics say this is still an underestimate as people who died at home are still excluded from the count.
An estimated 226 million domestic trips were made by all means including flights during the holiday week, state broadcaster CCTV reported, citing government figures.
Despite being far lower than pre-pandemic levels, this compared to almost 130 million domestic journeys made during the holiday week last year, according to the transport ministry: Around 420 million travels were made during the last Lunar New Year vacation before the new coronavirus emerged in late 2019.
According to the National Immigration Administration, international travel increased by 120.5% from the previous year to 2.88 million inbound and outgoing cross-border travels.
12.53 million cross-border journeys were made in 2019 during the Lunar New Year vacation, according to the Xinhua news agency.