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First Chinese Lunar New Year after COVID Surge: Chinese no longer willing to “not go out unless necessary”

China has the most traffic pressure, and the annual "Spring Festival" kicks off with a tsunami-like outbreak of new coronavirus infection. In the lobby of Shenzhen South Railway Station in Guangdong Province, passengers with masks and luggage crowded the hall, waiting to buy tickets and board the train.
China has the most traffic pressure, and the annual “Spring Festival” kicks off with a tsunami-like outbreak of new coronavirus infection. In the lobby of Shenzhen South Railway Station in Guangdong Province, passengers with masks and luggage crowded the hall, waiting to buy tickets and board the train.

WASHINGTON — On January 19, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Transport said that it was the 13th day of the Spring Festival and had entered the peak passenger flow before the Spring Festival. Railway passenger civil aviation has sent a total of 480 million passengers, down 47% from the same period in 2019 but up 47% from the same period in 2022. The 2023 Lunar New Year of the Rabbit is the first Lunar New Year after China’s zero-zero policy, and despite the coronavirus pandemic, the cloud of severe illness and death has not yet lifted, and Chinese people have embarked on a long-lost journey back to their hometowns.

China announced that the peak of infections across the country had passed

It’s New Year’s Spring Festival again. In the past three years, for every New Year celebration, the Chinese used to hear one-size-fits-all mobilization slogans such as “celebrate the New Year in place”, “celebrate the festival in place”, “do not go out unless necessary”, and “do not return to your hometown unless necessary” have finally been improved into relatively mild initiatives such as “people infected with the new coronavirus infected at home should not go out to visit relatives unless necessary”, “try not to hold large-scale family gathering activities”, and “reduce the scale and frequency of rural fairs” during the 2023 Lunar New Year.

On January 17, the Shanghai Leading Group for the Prevention and Control of the New Crown Epidemic held a meeting. The meeting pointed out that Shanghai has passed the peak of this round of epidemic infection, the intensity of community transmission has decreased significantly, the epidemic trend has stabilized and improved, and it has been at a low epidemic level.

Mr. Zhong, a dairy importer living in Shanghai (whose real name was not used at his request), has been unable to return to his hometown in Fujian to visit relatives in the past two years due to the lockdown, and this year he was able to take his children back home for the Chinese New Year. After Shanghai’s full liberalization, although Mr. Zhong’s children can return to school, they still have to continue their previous online classes because most of their teachers are infected with the new crown. Taking advantage of this period of relative freedom, Mr. Zhong took the children to Hainan for a swim before returning to his hometown.

Mr. Zhong told the media that the reason why he returned to his hometown with confidence and boldness was also that his parents and parents-in-law had both been infected with the new crown and recovered. “Our elderly people are not very old, and they don’t have so many worries. If they are over 80 years old and have not been impotent, they really dare not go. I have many friends who have elderly people who are not yet infected at home, and the elderly do not go out, and they dare not visit. “

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Mr. Chung’s import business suffered a very serious blow last year because most of his customers in China are restaurants located in shopping malls, and the harsh zero-clearance policy makes it impossible for him to carry out normal purchases and sales.” Because the restaurants are all inside the mall. In accordance with the epidemic prevention and control policy, if there is positive or close contact, the mall will be closed. The restaurant enters the raw materials for nothing, and it is also a loss. The consumption of the last few months is gone, disappearing out of thin air. Disappearing means that the original backlog of goods has always been backlogged.

However, Mr. Zhong said that although life is not good, at least he is not as “panicked” as before. “I went through the whole Shanghai lockdown. In the beginning, it was said that it was closed for four days, first Pudong and then Puxi. As a result, after it was sealed, it was not opened, and it was directly sealed for three months. At that time, I was panicked.

However, for Mr. Zhong, the lockdown period is not the worst. Panicking is panicking, and grabbing vegetables is grabbing vegetables, but compared with later October, that time was not the most panicked. Because at that time, I thought that it was always going to be unblocked. After opening the 20th National Congress, it is always necessary to unblock, and everyone can’t run out of the way. But the most panicked time was after the 20th National Congress, and the seals in various places were stricter. There was no schedule for unblocking, and it was the most panic at that time.

Now, he can finally take his children back to his hometown for the New Year, which for Mr. Zhong is also a sign of final relief from “panic”: “For adults, it is not only the atmosphere of going home for the New Year but mainly the original seal, especially Shanghai, no expectations, no hope.” After letting go, whether dead or alive, everyone knows such a result, there is finally hope, slow efforts, you can have expectations, you can make plans, and you have a little bottom in your heart.

Mr. Chung believes that the severity of the economic downturn eventually led to full liberalization. He believes that it will take some time for China’s economy to recover slowly: “If the environment is not limited, I estimate that the recovery will not be possible until May and June, summer.” As far as our industry is concerned, the inventory backlog is too serious. Many goods still have to be brought in even if they are not consumed in China. It is estimated that it is difficult to digest the original inventory in half a year. From the consumption side, the people have no money, and if there is no money, the consumption is downgraded. Recovery also requires a process, which I estimate will take half a year. Now everyone is playing with their lives to survive and work for their lives. The

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Chinese who have recovered from the infection return to the tradition of returning home for the Chinese New Year Gao Fang, 28, from her hometown of Chengde, Hebei Province (who did not use her real name at her request) left Beijing early to join the first Spring Festival army, and this year she plans to stay in Chengde for 20 days before returning to Beijing. “Because my grandparents weren’t sick, they were in a hurry, so they took to leave a few days earlier and came back early. Fortunately, they basically have nothing to do now.

Gao Fang told the media that her grandfather also lived in the same village and that the four seventy-and eighty-year-old people were all infected but had recovered their health. Our village is ok. The village next door is more miserable, with more than forty (dead), only five in our village, and in previous years it was almost the same number. None of the symptoms in our village are too severe. I suspect a different strain. Our village is a little bigger, but fewer people have died.

Gao Fang herself was infected with the new crown in Beijing in December, and the symptoms were relatively obvious, and the headache and fatigue lasted for more than a month before fully recovering. After learning that the four elderly people in the family had recovered, she was relieved to embark on the journey home. Nevertheless, after discussing with her mother, she decided to bring forward the wedding scheduled for October to April, because she was “afraid that the old people would not see it.”

“My grandma is indeed older. Our family is quite funny, the old man is not taboo about this at this age, these two days to prepare life clothes, choose for themselves. They have been preparing for many years, and the materials were not good before, but now they are buying again. I took a portrait of my grandmother ten years ago. I don’t reshoot, grandma thinks that the younger the shoot, the better it looks, and now I think I have more folds on my face when I am older.

In the villages around

Gao Fang’s hometown, coffins have recently become scarce: “There are not enough coffins. (The seller) builds a coffin, gives a reserve price, and then several come to grab it, and whoever pays the higher price takes it. Because we don’t cremate here, we bury it in the ground. There is a coffin shop in our village, which is made by hand, and we didn’t do much before, because everyone was willing to buy finished products. As a result, this year, he started doing it again in the past two days.

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Although the number of elderly people who have recently died has increased much more than in previous years, Gao Fang’s village is still filled with the joyful and lively atmosphere characteristic of the rural Spring Festival: “Because firecrackers can be set off this year.” The policy is not possible, but this year the management is particularly loose, including the city had set off firecrackers to buy firecrackers, and our hometown has always had a strong atmosphere for the New Year. Today we are steamed buns. My dad killed the chicken, and then tomorrow he’s going to open the oil pan and fry everything during the New Year. Although

the shadow of the new crown has been shrouded for a long time, the members of Gao Fang’s hometown are still preparing for an extremely lively New Year. Relatives come over, and everyone can sit at three to four tables. It should be that it is all yang, and it is very lively. In previous years, there were none, and everyone dared not eat together. In previous years, it was not recommended for everyone to move around in the village, so everyone would visit each other a few years ago, and if they were a little more careful, they would not come to the party.

China’s National Health Commission announced at a press conference on January 19 that the provinces have passed three peaks: the peak of fever outpatient clinics, the peak of emergency care, and the peak of severe patients, with the number of positive severe patients in hospitals nationwide peaking on January 5, 2023, and then continuing to decline, and general outpatient services in hospitals are recovering. A spokesman for the Ministry of Transport said that January 19 is the 13th day of the Spring Festival, which has entered the peak passenger flow before the Spring Festival. Railway passenger civil aviation has sent a total of 480 million passengers, down 47.3% from the same period in 2019 but up 47.1% from the same period in 2022.

On January 20, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism issued a notice announcing that from February 6, 2023, the pilot will resume the operation of group travel and “air ticket + hotel” business for Chinese citizens to relevant countries on a pilot basis. The list of the first batch of countries to pilot outbound tourism includes 20 countries, including Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Russia, but Japan, the United States, Australia, and other countries have not yet been listed, and only Switzerland and Hungary are included in the European list.

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