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Chinese families reunite as international travel surges after Covid-19 lockdowns end

Chu Wenhong hugs her mother as she arrives from Singapore ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year (REUTERS)
Chu Wenhong hugs her mother as she arrives from Singapore ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year (REUTERS)

Families are reuniting in China after three Covid-hit years as passenger numbers surge and more than one million apply for a passport.

Around 490,000 daily entries and exits to the country were made between January 8-12, up by 48.9 per cent from before the government’s decision to ease virus restrictions. This breaks down as 250,000 entry trips and 240,000 exit trips, which is 26.2 per cent of what levels were before the onset of the coronavirus.

Since January 8, 1.35 million have applied for Chinese passports as well as Hong Kong and Macau visas since, according to Beijing sources.

The easing of entry and exit restrictions has seen family members reunite for the first time in three years. Singapore resident Chu Wenhong was forced to abandon her annual flight back to see her parents in Shanghai as a result of Covid.

Chu Wenhong poses for a selfie before boarding her flight to China ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year (via REUTERS)
Chu Wenhong poses for a selfie before boarding her flight to China ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year (via REUTERS)

But despite paying several times more for a one way ticket than she last paid for a return, Ms Chu said she felt exhilarated to be home soon after landing at the Shanghai Pudong Airport on Thursday.

“I'm so happy because I've been looking forward to it for three whole years. I want to see my mother the most and take a good look at her,” she told Reuters.

Numbers of cases have surged since China relaxed its “zero Covid” policy in December.

The peak of this latest wave is expected to last two to three months, and will soon swell over the vast countryside where medical resources are relatively scarce, a top Chinese epidemiologist has said.

Chu Wenhong at the airport (REUTERS)
Chu Wenhong at the airport (REUTERS)

Infections are expected to surge in rural areas as hundreds of millions travel to their hometowns for the Lunar New Year holidays, which officially start from January 21.

The country has not reported Covid fatalities data since Monday. Officials said in December they planned to issue monthly, rather than daily updates, going forward.

Although international health experts have predicted at least 1 million Covid-related deaths this year, China has reported just over 5,000 since the pandemic began, one of the lowest death rates in the world.