China’s annual Golden Week festivities came to an end on Friday under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, with travel significantly reduced and COVID testing more frequent, ahead of this month’s 20th Communist Party Congress. Tight security is ensured in the capital.
As in the past two years, authorities have tried to discourage the common practice of traveling to hometowns and villages around the National Day in early October. At least 24 provinces and cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, have issued announcements urging people to “holiday locally”.
Many Chinese follow this advice and prefer to stay close to home to avoid frequent COVID tests, ID checks and mandatory quarantines. Citizens were warned ahead of the holidays to specifically avoid 1,619 areas marked as “medium- or high-risk areas.”
“If I leave Beijing, even if I go to nearby Tianjin or Hebei province, my phone’s health app will send me a message when I get back, reminding me that there are positive cases wherever I’ve been. You can,” said Allen, a 51-year-old information technology worker in Beijing. “Then you have to quarantine at home. Travel means trouble.”
According to Shanghai’s Dragon TV, only 9.7 million people took Chinese railways on the first day of the October 1 holiday. This compares to his 15 million rail passengers on the first day of Golden Week before the pandemic. The Department of Transportation had predicted that road traffic this week would drop by about 30% compared to the same period in his 2021.
Many universities have shortened the seven-day holiday season to three to five days, citing COVID risks.
The country’s zero COVID policy has resulted in even more restrictions in some places. The Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region government suspended all passenger traffic from the region on Tuesday. And Xishuangbanna, a popular tourist destination in southern Yunnan province, has banned residents and tourists from leaving the city after finding a small number of positive cases.
Security measures have further dampened the celebratory mood in Beijing, where 2,296 delegates are about to arrive for the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which begins on October 16.
Officials are determined to avoid chaos in the events expected to see President Xi Jinping re-elected to a historic third term as party general secretary. There are more police patrols and more frequent ID checks.
At the request of the Beijing Municipal Government, the COVID measures at the airport have been strengthened. Travelers from areas with confirmed COVID cases within the last seven days are not allowed to enter the capital at all.
Visitors already in Beijing are advised not to attend social events or enter crowded public places within seven days of arrival. Also, she must be tested twice within 3 days of arrival.
Allen, an information technology worker, told VOA Mandarin that the atmosphere in Beijing’s neighborhood is always tense ahead of major political events like the Communist Party Congress.
At such times, “community volunteers” wearing red armbands patrol residential areas looking for “suspicious individuals”, and plainclothes public security officers are numerous in politically important places such as Tiananmen Square and the Great Hall of the People. It is clear that
Huang, a 42-year-old Beijinger who works in the cultural innovation industry, said the constant COVID testing many people have to undergo has numbed them.
“In Beijing, we have to get tested almost every 72 hours. Sometimes I forget when I’m busy with work, but when I take the subway or bus or go shopping, the health app reminds me it’s time to start over. It’s pretty inconvenient,” she said in an interview.
“People are getting used to it, but that doesn’t mean people support it. There’s nothing they can do about it,” she said.
Wu Se-Chih, deputy secretary-general of Taiwan’s Institute of Strategic and Public Studies, said in an interview that Chinese officials believe they have found that COVID-19 measures offer a convenient method of social control to overcome the pandemic. said that
“The so-called stability-keeping measures will become more frequent by the 20th Party Congress,” he said. “I don’t even think these measures will be relaxed at all after Congress, especially early next year before the National People’s Congress in March.”
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