Chinese rail stations and airports swamped during holiday, raising fears of fresh Covid outbreak

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Sophia Yan
·2 min read
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China's Golden Week holiday this year starts with the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day -  Qilai Shen/Bloomberg
China's Golden Week holiday this year starts with the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day - Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

People have begun swarming into China’s rail stations and airports as the country where the coronavirus pandemic emerged enters into its first major public holiday week after lockdowns began easing, potentially raising the risk of new infections. 

Nearly half of the country’s 1.4 billion people are expected to hit the road during China’s “Golden Week,” kicking off on Oct 1 as the nation celebrates its founding anniversary. 

Chinese authorities have relaxed some travel restrictions as the number of daily infections have begun dropping significantly. About 30 people were confirmed with the coronavirus through Tuesday this week, a figure that could rise given increased movement of people over the holiday. 

As such pandemic precautions remain in place, including detailed contact tracing via mobile phone apps that allow users to flash a green, yellow or red code – a health contagion profile that determines whether someone might pose an infection risk. 

Passengers wait in Hongqiao High-speed Railway Station in Shanghai - Qilai Shen/Bloomberg
Passengers wait in Hongqiao High-speed Railway Station in Shanghai - Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

Upon arrival to public places, such as restaurants or parks, visitors also still have to submit to temperature checks – sometimes via facial recognition thermal screening. Many provinces and municipalities also have their own system of recording arriving passengers in case a cluster outbreak occurs. 

And bottles of disinfectant can be found everywhere for people to use. 

While facemask regulations have slowly relaxed in some instances, most people on the go – whether on flights or on the daily subway commute – continue to  wear them. 

“Now the pandemic in China is getting much better so I can travel, but we still need to be careful,” wrote one user online. “I’m prepared to take a pile of masks with me!” 

For many Chinese – as it has been around the world – 2020 has been about sheltering in place. 

The coronavirus outbreak erupted in China near the start of the calendar year, and just before the Lunar New Year holiday, which is the country’s last major travel period, before the pandemic shut everything down. At the time, the movement of travellers that week spread infections across the country and even abroad. 

Draconian lockdowns went into place in Wuhan, ground zero of the pandemic, and later across the country as authorities sought to battle the outbreak. 

So it’s no surprise that many Chinese are eager to be on the move.

“I signed up for a tour group,” one person posted online. “Now that the pandemic situation is improving, it’s time to go out and get some sun on myself, which is getting moldy.”