People in China are resuming travel ahead of the Lunar New Year, despite worries about infections after Beijing dropped Covid-19 curbs last month, with air passenger volumes recovering to 63 per cent of 2019 levels since the annual travel season began.
The rapid business recovery is challenging airlines’ ability to ensure safety, and great attention to pandemic-related risks is needed, said Song Zhiyong, head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China.
The industry needs to “fully understand the special nature, and complexity of the Spring Festival migration in 2023”, Song said.
Since the January 7 start of the annual migration, as Chinese return to their hometowns in preparation for the holiday set to begin on January 21, flight passenger numbers stand at 63pc of the 2019 figure before the pandemic, the aviation regulator said.
China reopened its borders on January 8 after having abruptly abandoned in December a strict anti-virus regime of frequent testing, travel curbs and mass lockdowns that had fuelled historic nationwide protests in late November.
The transport ministry has predicted passenger traffic volumes to jump 99.5pc on the year during the festival migration, which runs until February 15, or a recovery to 70.3pc of 2019 levels.
In Macau, Friday’s 46,000 daily inbound travellers were the highest number since Covid-19 emerged in early 2020, the majority from the mainland, the city government said. It expects a Spring Festival boom in tourism.
The holiday week is also a key time for new movie releases in China.
Cinema box office receipts are on track to generate revenue of as much as 10 billion yuan ($1.5bn) during the Spring Festival period, a brokerage has forecast.
However, infections are expected to surge in rural areas as hundreds of millions return home from big cities.
That fear is reflected in a scramble for oxygen-generating equipment, as most products of top-selling brands are sold out on e-commerce platforms such as JD.com, according to Reuters checks and buyers’ online comments.
One firm, Jiangsu Yuyue Medical Equipment and Supply Company is marshalling all possible resources to respond to customer needs, it assured investors on an online platform recently.
In addition, surging demand for health checks on those who have recovered from Covid is boosting hospital demand for CT scanning equipment, the China Securities Journal said.