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2023-01-21 05:18:50

Chen Hong is finally returning home for the holidays after three years away.

The 48-year-old, who works at a metal refining factory in Malaysia, hadn’t been able to fly to China since 2020 due to the country’s strict travel policies, which included a lengthy quarantine. Now that authorities have dismantled the policy, making travel easier, many people like Chen are making the long-awaited journey home for Lunar New Year, which falls on Sunday.

“I’m finally home,” Chen told Sixth Tone. “I’m so excited. God knows how long I’ve been waiting for this moment.”

For many, Lunar New Year — also known as Spring Festival — has been muted for the past three years, as authorities discouraged traveling to curb the transmission of the virus. During this time, they were unable to join the annual family reunion dinner, normally the only time for some to get off from work and visit their hometowns.

But more Chinese are traveling this year. More than 2 billion passenger trips are expected during the 40-day peak travel season, up by 99.5% from 2022, according to the Ministry of Transport, and the number of people leaving Beijing and Shanghai is at its highest since 2020.

However, some local governments have cautioned residents of traveling amid fears of a virus surge, particularly in rural areas where hospitals are already under pressure. Many with older relatives at home, who are most vulnerable to the coronavirus, are already in a dilemma and have canceled their New Year reunion plans.

Jiang Qian, who works at a nail salon in Shanghai, said she has followed her local government’s directive for the past two years. The 26-year-old hasn’t visited her hometown in the neighboring Anhui province for the past two Lunar New Year celebrations and is committed to going this time.

“Many things have happened in the past two years,” she said. “My parents are getting old. It would be a shame if I, as their daughter, couldn’t keep them company as much as possible.”

Chen, who flew from Malaysia on Jan. 4, said he was four days into his quarantine in the central city of Changsha when the rules were lifted. He added that the release had added to his festival cheer.

“Can you imagine how happy I was?” he said. “It was a bonus surprise. My wife and my son were waiting for me.”

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: A father and son at a railway station in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Jan. 20, 2023. Yu Xiangquan/VCG)