Bharat Express

China is celebrating Lunar New Year like COVID no longer exists

More than 300 million trips were made during the holiday, nearly 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

Lunar New Year celebration

Lunar New Year celebration

Marking an end to the country’s three-year “zero COVID” experiment, China has celebrated the Lunar New Year with abandon this year.

According to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, more than 300 million trips were made during the holiday, nearly 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

Tourist spots were swamped, movie theaters were packed and fireworks displays lit up the night sky as China celebrated the Lunar New Year with an abandon that marked the end of its three-year Covid Zero experiment.

The extreme weather in some regions exacerbated traffic, many people were undaunted by the risk of supercharging the world’s biggest COVID-19 outbreak. Total bookings were four times higher than last year when strict measures limited travel as well as the spread of the virus.

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The upbeat mood is good news for the Chinese economy and leader Xi Jinping after widespread public anger over the zero-tolerance policy erupted late last year, which raised uncomfortable questions and created the potential for backlash. While the revelry is a relief after recurring lockdowns, it also carries the risk of reigniting the omicron wave that scorched the country in recent weeks, filling hospitals and overwhelming crematoriums.

The speed with which China charged through its reopening is unrivaled. A month ago, the government estimated 37 million people a day were contracting the virus. The streets went quiet. Just as quickly, the population appears to have turned the page.

Nevertheless, it remains unclear how severe and widespread the outbreak is. The government stopped universal testing and changed how it defines Covid mortality, clouding official reports. According to a report from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday, the number of patients hospitalized with severe disease or dying from Covid has declined more than 70 percent from the peak in early January.