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China's 'zero-COVID' restrictions curb May 1 holiday travel

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By AP
A child wearing a mask lines up for COVID test on Sunday, May 1, 2022, in Beijing.
A child wearing a mask lines up for COVID test on Sunday, May 1, 2022, in Beijing.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Ng Han Guan

Many Chinese are marking a quiet May Day holiday this year as the government's “zero-COVID” approach restricts travel and enforces lockdowns in multiple cities.

All restaurants in Beijing are closed to dine-in customers from Sunday through the end of the holiday on Wednesday, open only for takeout and delivery. Parks and tourist attractions in the Chinese capital are limited to half capacity. The Universal Studios theme park in Beijing, which opened last year, said it had shut down temporarily.

The pandemic situation varies across the vast nation of 1.4 billion people, but the Transport Ministry said last week that it expected 100 million trips to be taken from Saturday to Wednesday, which would be down 60% from last year. Many of those who are travelling are staying within their province as local governments discourage or restrict cross-border travel to try to keep out new infections.

China is sticking to a strict “zero-COVID” policy even as many other countries are easing restrictions and seeing if they can live with the virus. Much of Shanghai — China's largest city and a finance, manufacturing and shipping hub — remains locked down, disrupting people's lives and dealing a blow to the economy.

The major outbreak in Shanghai, where the death toll has topped 400, appears to be easing. The city recorded about 7,200 new locally transmitted cases on Saturday, down from a peak of 27,605 on April 13. Outside of Shanghai, only 364 new cases were found in the rest of mainland China.

Beijing, which has tallied about 300 cases in the past nine days, is restricting activity to try to prevent a large outbreak and avoid a citywide lockdown similar to Shanghai. Individual buildings and housing complexes with coronavirus cases have been sealed off. Visitors to many office buildings and tourist sites such as the Great Wall must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within the previous 48 hours.

Online booking agency Ctrip said last week that people were booking travel to cities that were mostly free of the virus, such as Chengdu in Sichuan province and nearby Chongqing. Other popular destinations included Wuhan, where the world's first major outbreak of COVID-19 occurred in early 2020. About half the orders on the Ctrip platform were for travel within a province.