‘Daylight is here’: China travel searches surge as public applauds COVID easing

BEIJING, Dec 7 (Reuters) – Searches on Chinese travel sites surged and social media platforms were flooded with joy and relief on Wednesday as the public applauded the greater relaxation of some of the strictest COVID policies in the world.

Trip.com’s travel platforms in Qunar said searches for airfares to cities such as tourist hotspots Sanya and Harbin jumped up to seven times after the easing of restrictions was announced. rules, many people looking to travel around the Lunar New Year. holidays in January.

China’s relaxation of its rules includes allowing infected people with mild or no symptoms to self-quarantine at home and dropping testing for people traveling to the country, marking the apparent end of the strategy. extremely unpopular zero-COVID.

The policy has kept China’s infection numbers extremely low by global standards, but has also stifled its economy and had a devastating impact on the lives of many people.

Frustration over the rules turned into widespread protests late last month.

Wednesday’s announcement quickly became the most viewed topic on China’s Weibo platform, with many people “finally” accepting a return to normalcy.

“The fight against the epidemic has been going on for three years, it is a historic day,” commented a Weibo user.

Dozens of people also flocked to the Weibo account of Li Wenliang, a doctor from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus first emerged, who died in 2020 after raising early alarm about COVID-19 and whose the latest post has been an online haven for those seeking to vent their personal woes and public policies.

“Doctor, we made it, we’re going to be free”

wrote one user. “Daylight is here,” wrote another.

Cautious optimism, exhaustion

The news was also welcomed by foreign business groups, many of whom had become increasingly outspoken about the damage the zero-COVID policy was having on the Chinese economy and the operations of their businesses.

“Rapid implementation will help stabilize the Chinese economy and bring life back to normal,” the European Chamber of Commerce in China said of the 10 measures announced on Wednesday.

He urged that a clearly defined roadmap be provided to businesses and local governments.

He also urged China to roll out mRNA vaccines for home use as part of a vaccination campaign with the elderly as a priority.

The American Chamber of Commerce in China said it views any opening-up policy as positive, adding that the business environment must return to a level of predictability so businesses can resume normal operations.

“Today’s measures have focused on the indoor environment; however, we would also like to see a further easing of restrictions on inbound travel, continuing the progress that was made on this front earlier this year,” he said. said Colm Rafferty, president of AmCham China, in a statement. statement.

Still, Chinese social media feared the opening would spark a wave of infections. Many people rushed to stock up on home testing kits as well as fever and cough medicine.

Others wondered why it took so long, given that most of the world lifted the brakes and chose to live with the virus, even as it spread.

“A year ago the rest of the world did this, so why the hell didn’t we do it sooner?” a user wrote on WeChat. “People are so exhausted,” wrote another.

Reporting by Sophie Yu and Martin Pollard, writing by Brenda Goh; Editing by Robert Birsel

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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