China’s Ministry of Transport on Thursday cut its forecast of passenger flow for the 2021 Spring Festival travel season as the country has adopted strict anti-epidemic measures to curb COVID-19 spread.
The 40-day travel peak, which started on Thursday, is expected to see around 1.15 billion passenger trips, marking a drop of more than 20 percent year on year and a plunge of over 60 percent from the level in 2019, ministry spokesperson Wu Chungeng told a press conference.
The ministry previously projected China to see 1.7 billion passenger trips during the period. However, it now expects the actual numbers to be much lower than the current forecast.
Around 3 billion trips are normally made in what has come to be known as the Spring Festival travel rush. People across the country usually enjoy a week-long holiday for family gatherings and celebrations for the Lunar New Year, which falls on February 12 this year.
This year, following a resurgence of sporadic COVID-19 cases, the government has encouraged people to stay put to celebrate the festival and travelers must have a negative virus test within seven days of departure.
Authorities have offered free refunds on plane tickets and extra pay for workers who stay put to dissuade travel for the holiday. Entertainment streaming services have been asked to offer more free movies, TV and sports services during the holiday to help people pass the time at home, while the three largest mobile operators — China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom — will give 20GB free data to users based in Beijing during the festival.
Efforts appeared to be working as Beijing’s main train station was largely quiet and estimates of passenger totals were smaller than in past years.
Miao Biao, a migrant worker in Hefei, capital of east China’s Anhui Province, said it would be his first time in 11 years to spend the holiday in Hefei instead of his hometown in the city of Fuyang.
According to the appliance maker Whirlpool China, where Miao works, about one-fourth of its 2,600 workers have chosen not to return to their hometown during the holiday. The company will grant them cash rewards, holiday gifts as well as a three-day vacation for a home visit in April.