Hairstylist Wang Lidan is taking an emotional Lunar New Year trip from Beijing to her hometown in northeastern China — her first such trip in three years — after the government lifted a strict “no coronavirus” policy that has kept millions of people in lockdown. their homes and sparked protests.
Referred to in China as the Spring Festival, the New Year holidays may be the only time of the year when urban workers return to their hometowns and see the family they left behind.
The Chinese government expects some 2.1 billion trips to be made during the 40-day travel period around the celebration as people rush to the traditional New Year’s Eve reunion dinner. The first day of the Lunar New Year falls on Sunday.
“Restrictions have been lifted, which made me feel at ease. I think it is time to go home,” Wang said before heading to the Beijing train station for a flight to Heilongjiang Province.
In December, China abruptly dropped near-daily coronavirus testing and QR code monitoring of the population after public frustration boiled over into protests in Shanghai and other cities. This month, it dropped most remaining restrictions, including requiring travelers from abroad to enter a lengthy and costly quarantine.
Many local governments have also imposed their own quarantines on travelers coming into their areas, and it was the ones Wang said prevented them from leaving Beijing.
“If there was an outbreak in Beijing, I would have to quarantine in my hometown. When I came back to Beijing, I would have to be quarantined again.”
“I would miss the Spring Festival and delay my return to work if I was quarantined twice. Very uncomfortable!”
Hu Yuan, from the eastern province of Shandong, manages to return home every year despite the troubles. He says he plans to continue regular COVID-19 testing and other measures given the high number of cases since restrictions were lifted.
“I do nucleic acid tests every now and then. When I get to my hometown, I will definitely take a test as a means of self-defense. Otherwise, I won’t know if I’m infected. If I’m infected, I’ll self-isolate at home,” Hu said.
Wang Jingli said he decided to work during the holidays because his company would triple his overtime pay. With the removal of COVID-19 restrictions, his children and wife will visit him in Beijing from their hometown in Henan Province.
“With the reopening, everyone is very happy with the Spring Festival because we can reunite with our families. But because of my work, I used to spend the Spring Festival here in Beijing.”