Hong Kong (CNN) – China is moving again. By October 1st, hundreds of millions of people are expected to fill highways, trains and planes for the National Day holiday, one of the busiest times to travel in the world’s most populous country.
Tourists crowd Leshan Giant Buddha in Sichuan Province, China, during the National Day holiday in 2019.
Liu Zhongjun / China News Service / VCG / Getty Images
At the moment, however, the virus is not a major concern for Chinese tourists, given the near zero domestic transmission in China and some of the most stringent border control measures in the world.
Chen Qianmei, 29, from the southern city of Guangzhou, flew to Shanghai on Tuesday for her vacation. She said she was not worried about the virus, although she was still taking precautions.
“I think China (the virus) is under good control,” she said. “I wear masks and bring alcohol wipes with me to clean my hands, especially before eating – although few people in Shanghai now wear masks.”
Chinese security personnel watch crowds on a popular pedestrian shopping street during the “ Golden Week ” holiday in Shanghai in 2017.
AFP Contributor / AFP / AFP via Getty Images
Coronavirus, which was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan last December before spreading around the world, has been largely contained in China since March. In the following months, small-scale outbreaks erupted occasionally – from the country’s northeast to the capital, Beijing and the country’s far western region of Xinjiang, but all were quickly contained through strict lockdown measures and mass testing programs.
China has not reported any locally transmitted symptoms since mid-August, and is strictly screening overseas arrivals and workers at risk of contracting the virus. Last week, the first local infection without symptoms was discovered in more than a month, after workers at the port unloading imported frozen seafood in Qingdao tested positive for the virus in a routine examination.
Two residents walk through an empty park during the Lunar New Year holiday on January 27 in Wuhan, China.
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The feeling of control contrasts starkly with the anxiety and omission that overshadowed the last major travel period for China – the Lunar New Year holiday in late January. At the time, the coronavirus outbreak was sweeping Wuhan after local authorities initially silenced health care workers who were 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 outside the country, with hundreds of millions of Chinese heading home to reunite or take their families. Vacations abroad.
But the center still recommends travelers adhere to local epidemic control measures, wear masks on trains and flights and in crowded places, and stay within 1 meter (3.2 feet) at tourist sites – the last of which may be difficult if not impossible to monitor, given the size of the crowds. Popular sites often flood during Chinese holidays.
Last week, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism ordered tourist sites to restrict capacity to 75% during the Golden Week, up from 50% over previous months. To facilitate contact tracing, visitors are required to register online in advance.
Tourists wearing face masks line up outside the Yellow Crane in Wuhan, China on September 3.
Hector Retamal / AFP / AFP via Getty Images
Promote indoor travel
Chinese authorities – including the CDC and the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs – have urged Chinese citizens to avoid unnecessary travel abroad, citing the epidemic that continues to rage around the world.
Chinese tourists wait for their tour bus at the Ginza shopping district on October 02, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan.
Tomohiro Osumi / Getty Images AsiaPac / Getty Images
But this year, it will be virtually impossible to take overseas flights, given the various visa restrictions and quarantine requirements imposed around the world, as well as the lack of international flights. On their return to China, travelers must also face two weeks of strict quarantine – with at least half of the time spent in government-designated hotels.
The only exception is Macau, which waived quarantine requirements in July for mainland travelers who had tested negative for the coronavirus within seven days. Last week, mainland China fully resumed tourist visas for the semi-autonomous region, just in time for the National Day holiday.
Tourists take a selfie at the Yellow Crane Tower in Wuhan on September 3, 2020.
Hector Retamal / AFP / AFP via Getty Images