Beijing on alert for COVID as holidays begin

The Chinese government is aiming to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in Beijing as the country’s Lunar New Year holiday begins on Monday, four days before the opening of the Winter Olympics in the capital.

The city is seeing fewer departures from Beijing Railway Station and other travel hubs than usual, with the government urging people to refrain from visiting their hometown as in a typical holiday season.

There have been several instances in which travelers wishing to see family and friends have been forced to turn back or self-isolate. This drew criticism, leading the central government to order local authorities not to be stricter than necessary.

A 25-year-old man returning to his hometown in Hebei province for the first time in two years says a PCR test and 14 days of isolation are needed before he can meet friends and relatives.

The first infection with the Omicron variant in Beijing was confirmed on January 15, and a number of other cases of coronavirus infection have been confirmed in the capital since then. Police and other officials are monitoring people leaving and entering districts where cases have been discovered.

The Chinese government estimates people will make 1.18 billion trips in a 40-day period that includes the New Year holiday.