China steps up Covid-19 preparedness ahead of annual Spring Festival travel rush

The Chinese mainland on Wednesday reported 25 newly confirmed Covid-19 cases.
The Chinese mainland on Wednesday reported 25 newly confirmed Covid-19 cases.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (XINHUA) - China will step up epidemic prevention and control during the upcoming Spring Festival travel rush and strengthen emergency response, in an effort to ensure safe travel of the public.

"China takes seriously uncertainties in the epidemic situation in winter," Premier Li Keqiang said at a State Council executive meeting on Wednesday (Dec 30).

"The Spring Festival is a traditional holiday of the Chinese nation, and people strongly wish to travel. Effective preparedness and response should be ensured during Spring Festival travel season, and guidance provided for staggered travel in an orderly and safe manner."

The annual Spring Festival travel rush, a 40-day period known as chunyun, starts from Jan 28 to March 8 next year.

During the period, masses of migrant workers travel from the cities where they work back to their hometowns to celebrate the Lunar New Year, which falls on Feb 12 next year. At the end of the celebrations, they travel back to the cities.

The Lunar New Year holidays are also an opportunity for many to travel around the country for sightseeing.

A total of 407 million passenger trips are expected for the 2021 Spring Festival travel rush, with 10.18 million daily passenger trips, according to the national rail operator, Global Times reported.

Attendees at the Wednesday meeting agreed that in the light of the potential, higher risk in the epidemic situation due to large-scale movement of people as the Spring Festival approaches, it is important to ensure effective work in staggered transport arrangements and epidemic preparedness and response.

The measures include:

- Transport capacity to be properly dispatched, in support of local guidelines on non-essential travel restrictions.

- Rural bus services to be extended.

- Two-way chartered coach services for migrant workers' trips between cities and hometowns to be provided when needed.

- Contactless ticket sales and security check measures such as electronic tickets and identification card swiping verification to be encouraged.

- Staggered travel to be encouraged and guided.

- Staggered holiday schedules and school reopening.

- Daily caps on scenic spot reservations.

"It is necessary to cut travel peaks to the extent possible and avoid mass gathering through such means as ticket booking and more transportation options. Emergency response plans on all fronts should be refined," Mr Li said.

"There should be better coordination among highway, waterway, railway and aviation services to ensure safe and smooth travel."

The Chinese mainland on Wednesday reported 25 newly confirmed Covid-19 cases, including nine locally transmitted cases and 16 arriving from outside the mainland, the National Health Commission said on Thursday.

Five of the locally transmitted cases were reported in northeast China's Liaoning Province, and two each in Beijing and Heilongjiang, the commission said in its daily report.