Three years later, finally, Chinese citizens will be able to live with relief and without restrictions against the Covid the Lunar New Year. Despite the need to return to normality, China will fight for caution to prevail in the face of the possibility that the number of infections will increase during the holidays, as experts have already predicted.
In 2021 and 2022, the Chinese, who usually return to their places of origin during this festive period, will face restrictions on mobility on these dates and recommendations from the authorities to spend the holidays in their usual place of residence, online with the then current ‘zero Covid’ policy.
Some simply consider it a return to pre-pandemic normality: “I live in Guangzhou (south) and I want to travel north to see the snow. I will wait and see how the trip turns out before saying if I am satisfied. If there are too many people, I fear meeting disappointed,” explains Lam, a Cantonese inhabitant, to Efe, referring to the Gentiles that usually form in tourist destinations on these dates and that were not common in 2021 and 2022.
Other testimonials on the country’s social networks show satisfaction at being able to travel freely: “Three years later, the hustle and bustle for the Lunar New Year returns; we can finally return home. It is a sign that our lives are once again heading towards normality,” they declare. a user on the Weibo social network.
fear of contagion
Despite the fact that many provinces have calculated that most of their populations have already been infected with Covid -up to 90% of their inhabitants in some cases-, the authorities have been asking for weeks of caution against the possible spread of the virus due to the numerous displacements.
The Executive asked local governments in mid-December to give priority to health services in rural areas, pointing out “their relative scarcity of health care resources” and the proximity of the festive period, while Chinese President Xi Jinping , expressed this week his “concern” for these areas in the face of the “return of workers and students.”
Local expert Fang Houmin advised against traveling during the holidays to people who have not yet been infected by Covid, statements that aroused criticism on social networks: “This year I just want to finally go home,” lamented a Weibo commentator, although other Internet users do express their fear of “infecting their relatives.”
The number of trips for the holidays is much higher than last year, but it is still far from the data prior to the pandemic: this Thursday there were 46.1 million trips, a figure that, despite representing a year-on-year increase of 55.1%, It is still 44% lower than that registered on the same date in 2019, the last Lunar New Year before the appearance of the covid.
It is hoped that this will be a boost for tourism or consumer-oriented businesses, which in recent years have been among the sectors most affected by the ‘zero Covid’.
The goal is to boost the economy.
This week, the Chinese will be focused on their celebrations, but after the festive period, the great challenge at the national level is the revival of the economy, which suffered this last year as a result of the restrictions and confinements: the official ciphers a growth of the gross domestic product (GDP) of 3%, far from the government objective of 5.5% and one of the lowest figures in decades.
Paradoxically, it was the ‘zero Covid’ that allowed China to establish itself as the only major world economy to resist the onslaught of the pandemic in 2020 by growing 2.2%, a figure that rose to 8.4% per year Next. However, the contagious omicron variant caught the authorities off guard, who did not know how to abandon their strategy in time and opted to redouble restrictions to try in vain to defeat it.
7% smaller than it would have been if the pre-pandemic growth trend continued.
Now that the ‘zero Covid’ has disappeared, “the fear of being quarantined has been replaced by the fear of catching it,” says Capital Economics, which, however, acknowledges that the rapid spread of the virus -up to 900 million people already infected, according to a study – could lead to a faster recovery than expected.
“The disruptions (to economic activity) are fading fast. This, coupled with the trend toward growth-friendly policies, suggests that the re-opening rebound will begin this quarter as 2023 as a whole will be stronger. China will grow 5.5% this year,” says the consultant.