China is seeking to minimize the possibility of a major new COVID-19 outbreak during this month’s Lunar New Year travel rush following the end of most pandemic containment measures.
The Transportation Ministry urged people to take fewer travels and to attend fewer gatherings on Friday, especially if they include old people, pregnant women, young children, and those with underlying medical concerns.
Vice Minister Xu Chengguang advised reporters at a briefing that people utilizing public transportation should wear masks. He further added that they should pay careful attention to their health and personal cleanliness.
Although some local governments have asked migrant workers not to return home, the call stopped short of urging locals to stay at home totally as the government had requested since the outbreak started.
A severe regime of lockdowns, quarantines, and mass testing was unexpectedly terminated by China in December amid rising worries about the effects on the economy and unusual public demonstrations in a nation that forbids open political dissent.
China on Sunday is also ending mandatory quarantines for people arriving from abroad.
The current outbreak appears to have spread the fastest in densely populated cities, putting a strain on the healthcare system. Authorities are concerned about the possible spread to smaller towns and rural areas that lack resources such as ICU beds.
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Overseas, a growing number of governments are requiring virus tests for travelers from China. They say the tests are needed because the Chinese government is not sharing enough information on the outbreak.
The European Union on Wednesday “strongly encouraged” its member-states to impose pre-departure COVID-19 testing, though not all have done so. The World Health Organization has also expressed concern about the lack of data from China; while the U.S. is requiring a negative test result for travelers from China within 48 hours of departure.
China has criticized the requirements and warned it could impose countermeasures against countries using them.