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Leisure travel within China is on the rise after COVID curbs were lifted

  • Domestic leisure travel is recovering but still below pre-pandemic levels
  • COVID deaths during holiday fewer than the week before
  • State media quote experts as saying that herd immunity has been achieved

BEIJING, Jan 28 (Reuters) – Lunar New Year holiday travel within China rose 74% year on year after authorities scrapped COVID-19 travel restrictions, state media reported on Saturday, although the number of trips is still down by half was as high as before the pandemic.

However, according to official figures, the number of COVID deaths fell weekly.

Between Jan. 20 and Jan. 26, a week that overlapped six days of the holiday season, China registered 6,364 COVID-related deaths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Saturday, compared with 12,658 a week earlier.

The Lunar New Year is the most important holiday of the year in China, when large numbers of people working in prosperous coastal cities travel to their hometowns and villages for family reunions.

This year’s celebration is the first in three years without any form of lockdown restrictions. China abandoned its strict “zero-COVID” policy in early December after protests over the restrictions that have allowed people to travel and the virus has spread rapidly across the country.

In response to criticism of its coronavirus data, China expanded its definition of the COVID death toll to include hospital deaths caused by respiratory failure from COVID and those who died from a combination of COVID and other diseases . Critics say that’s still an underestimate, as people who died at home are still excluded from the count.

An estimated 226 million domestic trips were made by any means, including flights during the holiday week, state broadcaster CCTV reported, citing government figures.

This compares to around 130 million domestic trips during the holiday week last year, according to the Ministry of Transport, but is still well below pre-pandemic levels: around 420 million trips were made in the final New Year’s holidays before the novel coronavirus broke out in late 2019.

As for outbound trips, inbound and outbound cross-border trips rose 120.5% year-on-year to 2.88 million, the National Immigration Service said on Saturday.

12.53 million cross-border trips were made during the 2019 Lunar New Year holiday, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Reporting from Yew Lun Tian, ​​additional reporting from the Shanghai newsroom; Edited by Robert Birsel, William Mallard and Raissa Kasolowsky

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