BEIJING: Some people in the Chinese cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Wuhan braved the cold and a rise in Covid-19 infections to return to regular activity on Monday, raising the prospect of a boost to the economy as more recover from infections.
Among those who gathered to sled or ice skate on a frozen lake in the capital’s Shichahai Lake Park, some were upbeat about the opening-up after China dropped stringent “zero-Covid” measures on December 7 to adopt a strategy of living with the virus.
The switch followed protests over the policy championed by President Xi Jinping, marking the strongest show of public defiance in his decade-old presidency and coinciding with grim growth figures for the country’s $17 trillion economy.
However, a wave of infections has erupted nationwide since the dismantling of the zero-Covid policy, fuelling international concern and prompting some countries to impose curbs on travellers from China.
“After the end of this lockdown, we don’t have to scan the health code any more, nor do we have to check the travel code,” said one of those in the park, Yang, who gave only one name.
“So we are free now.”
Also at the lake was Zhong, a 22-year-old college student, who said he had stayed home for two or three weeks after getting infected.
“Now I can go out and it’s good timing for the New Year’s Day holiday,” he said. “I want to go around in Beijing, have a look and feel the festive mood.”
Monday was a public holiday but traffic in the capital has built up again in the last few days as people flock to outdoor sites, although business is still slow in some smaller, confined locations, such as restaurants.
The owner of a Beijing seafood restaurant said patrons had not returned to full strength.
“I expect this situation to linger through the Lunar New Year holiday,” said Chen, who gave only his surname. “I am counting on business to be more normal after the holiday.”
In the central city of Wuhan, where the pandemic began three years ago, people were not as anxious any more, a man surnamed Wu told Reuters.
“Work production, life and entertainment are all getting back to normal levels,” said Wu, a tutor at a private training centre.
During the New Year’s holiday period, 52.7 million domestic tourist trips were made, an increase of 0.44% over the same period a year earlier and up 42.8% over the corresponding period in 2019, according to government data posted on Monday.
China’s biggest holiday, Lunar New Year, begins on Jan. 21 this year, when the railway network is expected to carry 5.5 million passengers, state broadcaster CCTV has said.
As expectations for holiday travel grow, authorities at Tibet’s spectacular Potala Palace said it would open for visitors from January 3, after shutting last August due to a Covid-19 outbreak. — Reuters