China’s ‘zero-COVID’ restrictions curb leisure travel on May 1

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BEIJING — Many Chinese are taking a quiet May holiday this year as the government’s “zero-COVID” approach restricts travel and enforces lockdowns in several cities.

All Beijing restaurants are closed for dinner from Sunday to the end of the public holiday on Wednesday and are open for takeout and delivery only. Parks and tourist attractions in the Chinese capital are limited to 50% of their capacity. The Universal Studios theme park in Beijing, which opened last year, said it was temporarily closed.

The pandemic situation varies across the vast country of 1.4 billion people, but the transport ministry said last week it expected 100 million journeys to be made from Saturday to Wednesday, which would be 60% less than last year. Many of those who travel stay in their provinces as local governments discourage or restrict cross-border travel to ward off 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 hub for finance, manufacturing and shipping — remains closed, disrupting people’s lives and impacting the economy.

The major outbreak in Shanghai, where the death toll has surpassed 400, appears to be easing. The city registered 7,872 new locally transmitted cases on Saturday, up from more than 20,000 a day in recent weeks. Outside of Shanghai, only 384 new cases were found in the rest of mainland China.

Beijing, which has counted 321 cases in the past nine days, is restricting activities to prevent a major outbreak and avoid a citywide lockdown, similar to Shanghai. Individual buildings and residential complexes with coronavirus infections are closed. Visitors to many office buildings and tourist sites such as the Great Wall must be able to show evidence of a negative COVID-19 test within the past 48 hours.

Online booking agency Ctrip said last week that people were booking trips to cities that were largely virus-free, such as Chengdu in Sichuan province and the nearby city of Chongqing. Other popular destinations included Wuhan, which was home to the world’s first major outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020. About half of the orders on the Ctrip platform were for intra-provincial travel.

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