People across China rang in the Lunar New Year on Sunday with large family gatherings and crowds visiting temples after the government lifted its strict “zero-COVID” policy, marking the biggest festive celebration since the pandemic began three years ago.
The Lunar New Year is the most important annual holiday in China. Each year is named after one of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac in a repeating cycle, with this year being the Year of the Rabbit. For the past three years, celebrations were muted in the shadow of the pandemic.
With the easing of most COVID-19 restrictions, many people could finally make their first trip back to their hometowns to reunite with their families without worrying about the hassles of quarantine, potential lockdowns and suspension of travel.
Larger public celebrations also returned for what is known as the Spring Festival in China, with the capital hosting thousands of cultural events — on a larger scale than a year ago.
The mass movement of people may cause the virus to spread in certain areas, said Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiologist at China’s Center for Disease Control.
But a large-scale COVID-19 surge will be unlikely in the next two or three months because about 80% of the country's 1.4 billion people have been infected during the recent wave, he wrote on the social media platform Weibo on Saturday.
Local resident Freddie Ho, who visited the temple on Saturday night, was happy that he could join the event in person.