Lunar New Year holiday trips surge in China after lifting of Covid restrictions

By Nectar Gan and CNN’s Beijing bureau

China saw 226 million domestic trips during the Lunar New Year holiday, state media reported, a 74% surge from last year after the government lifted all travel curbs under its now-abandoned zero-Covid policy.

For the first time in three years, Chinese people were free to travel without the hassle of quarantine or fear of lockdown for the most important holiday of the year, when families reunite in their hometowns to celebrate the new year or go on vacation together.

The number of trips made inside China during the week-long holiday, which ended on Friday, is the highest since 2020. They include journeys made by all means from flights, trains and cars to boats.

But the figure still fell far below pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, 421 million domestic trips were made over the holiday.

The pent-up demand for travel saw China’s tourist hotspots flooded with crowds during the holiday, from the tropical beaches on Hainan island to the ancient villages in the mountainous Yunnan province.

Overseas travels also skyrocketed after China finally reopened its borders earlier this month. During the Lunar New Year holiday, 2.88 million trips were made across the border, an increase of 120% from last year, according to the National Immigration Administration.

During the Lunar New Year holiday in 2019, 12.53 million cross-border trips were made, the Xinhua news agency reported.

The Chinese government abruptly abandoned its costly zero-Covid policy in December, following mass protests against stringent lockdowns and Covid tests.

The sudden lifting of restrictions saw the virus spread rapidly throughout the country and caught the healthcare system unprepared. Residents were left to scramble for fever medicines and antiviral treatments, while hospitals and crematoriums were overwhelmed.

With once-ubiquitous Covid testing mostly scrapped, the government stopped reporting the majority

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