Hong Kong (CNN) – China is on the move again. By October 1, hundreds of millions of people are expected to pack roads, trains and planes for the National Day holiday, one of the busiest times to travel in the most populous country in the world.
Tourists flock to Leshan Giant Buddha in Sichuan Province, China during the National Day Holidays in 2019.
Liu Zhangjun / China News Service / VCG / Getty Images
Currently, the virus is of little concern to Chinese holiday makers, as China is close to zero local transmission and some of the world’s toughest border control measures.
Chen Qianmei, 29, of the southern city of Guangzhou, flew to Shanghai on Tuesday for his vacation. She said she was not worried about the virus, although she was still taking precautions.
“I think China (the virus) is under very good control,” she said. “I wear masks and bring alcohol wipes to clean my hands, especially before eating – in Shanghai, some people now wear masks.”
Chinese security personnel see a crowd on a popular pedestrian shopping street during the ‘Golden Week’ holiday in Shanghai in 2017.
AFP Contributor / AFP / AFP by Getty Images
The coronavirus, which was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan last December before spreading worldwide, has been prevalent in China since March. In the following months, small-scale outbreaks flew occasionally – from the northeast of the country to the western part of the capital Beijing and Xinjiang, but were accelerated by all the strict lockdown measures and mass testing programs.
Since mid-August China has not reported any cases of infectious disease locally and has been rigorously monitoring the arrivals of foreign workers and workers at risk of contracting the virus. Last week, it detected its first local asymptomatic infections in a month after two port workers unloaded frozen imported fish in Qingdao.
Two residents are walking in an empty park during the lunar New Year’s holiday on January 27 in Wuhan, China.
Stringer / Getty Images
The sense of control is in stark contrast to the anxiety and anticipation that overshadowed China’s last major travel period – the lunar New Year’s holiday in late January. The coronavirus outbreak spread through Wuhan, with local officials initially silencing health workers trying to sound the alarm. Two days before Lunar New Year’s Day, the Chinese government ordered an unprecedented lockdown of the city, but by then, the virus had already spread to other provinces and the country, as hundreds of millions of Chinese people had gone home for family reunions or taken vacations abroad.
The center still recommends following local epidemic control measures, wearing masks on trains, planes and congested areas, and keeping a distance of 1 meter (3.2 feet) in tourist areas – the latter of which, if not impossible to observe, is the size of the crowds that frequently flood popular sites during Chinese holidays.
Last week, the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism ordered that tourist destinations be limited to 75% during the Golden Week, a 50% limit compared to previous months. To facilitate contact tracing, visitors must register online in advance.
Tourists wearing face masks line up outside the Yellow Crane Tower in Wuhan, China on September 3.
HECTOR RETAMAL / AFP / AFP by Getty Images
Domestic Travel Boost
Chinese officials – including the Chinese CDC and the Foreign Ministry – have urged Chinese citizens to avoid unnecessary foreign travel, citing the ongoing epidemic around the world.
Chinese tourists wait for their tour bus on October 2, 2019 in the Ginza Shopping District in Tokyo, Japan.
Tomohiro Ohsumi / Getty Images Asiapack / Getty Images
This year, it is practically impossible to make foreign trips due to the various visa restrictions and detention requirements imposed around the world, as well as the shortage of international flights. Upon return to China, travelers will also face two weeks of rigorous detention – at least half the time in government-appointed hotels.
The only exception was Macau, which in July waived detention requirements for major territorial travelers who received a negative test result for coronavirus within seven days. Last week, mainland China fully re-opened tourist visas to the semi-autonomous region for the National Day holiday.
Tourists take a selfie on September 3, 2020 at the Yellow Crane Tower in Wuhan.
HECTOR RETAMAL / AFP / AFP by Getty Images