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Asia Minute: China Prepares for Second Lunar New Year in a Pandemic

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AP Photo/Andy Wong
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A man and a woman, both wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, look at workers holding lunar new year deco and ox soft toys cheer outside their retail shop near Qianmen Street, a popular tourist spot in Beijing, Sunday, Jan. 31

The Year of the Ox officially gets underway a week from Friday. But Lunar New Year celebrations start much earlier — especially in mainland China. And for the second year in a row, the coronavirus is the focus of attention.

 

China’s government wants 50-million of its residents to receive a COVID-19 vaccine before the Lunar New Year. According to the National Health Commission, it was about halfway there last week.

Even if authorities reach that goal, it still represents roughly 4% of China’s population — a population that is usually on the move at this time of the year.

China’s Ministry of Transport says a usual Lunar New Year holiday brings about 3-billion trips. Last week, transport officials estimated there will be fewer than half a million this year — a slight increase from last year.

Those going on the road face challenges: from negative COVID tests to quarantines on both ends of their trips.

Local restrictions vary — no mass gatherings in Beijing, and that includes at temples. Other cities are boosting the price of movie tickets, to discourage attendance.

Some areas are providing incentives for businesses to keep their workers at home.

What’s officially known as the “Spring Festival” goes from February 11th to the 17th — but the government calculates a travel season that stretches to 40-days.

That started at the end of last week and lingers through the first week of March.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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