China travel searches surge as public cheers COVID easing

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China travel searches surge as public cheers COVID easing

Daylight is here'': China travel searches surge as public cheers COVID easing Guards in protective suits keep watch on the gate to a residential compound as the coronaviruses disease COVID 19 outbreaks continue in Beijing.

BEIJING Reuters - Searches on Chinese travel sites surged and social media platforms were flooded with delight and relief on Wednesday as the public cheered the biggest loosening of some of the world's strictest COVID policies.

Travel platforms from Trip.com to Qunar said that searches for air tickets to cities such as the Sanya and Harbin jumped as much as seven times after the looser rules were announced, with many people looking to travel around the Lunar New Year holiday in January.

China's relaxation of its rules allows people with mild or no symptoms to be quarantined at home and drop testing for people travelling domestically, marking an apparent end to the hugely unpopular zero-COVID strategy.

The policy kept the number of infections in China extremely low by global standards but also choked its economy and had a devastating impact on the lives of many people.

Frustration with the rules boiled over into widespread protests last month.

Wednesday was the most viewed topic on the Weibo platform, with many people finally embracing a return to normal.

The epidemic fight has gone on for three years, this is a history-making day, one Weibo user said.

Dozens of people also flocked to the Weibo account of Li Wenliang, a doctor in the Chinese city of Wuhan, who died in 2020 after raising an alarm about COVID 19 and whose last post has been an online haven for those who want to vent about personal woes and public policies.

Doctor, we've made it through, we're going to be free," wrote one user. Daylight is here, wrote another.

Foreign business groups, many of whom had become more outspoken about the damage the zero-COVID policy had on China's economy and operations, were also welcomed by the news.

The European Chamber of Commerce in China said that the measures announced on Wednesday will help to stabilise China's economy and get life back to normal.

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

It also urged China to roll out mRNA vaccines for domestic use as part of a vaccination drive for the elderly.

The American Chamber of Commerce in China said that any policy that pointed to opening up was positive and that the business environment needed to return to a level of predictability so companies could resume normal operations.

Today s measures focused on the domestic environment, but we would like to see further relaxation of inbound travel restrictions, continuing the progress that was made on that front earlier this year, said Colm Rafferty, chairman of AmCham China.

There was some concern on Chinese social media about whether the opening could unleash a wave of infections. Many people are rushing to buy home testing kits as well as cough and fever medication.

Many of the world's citizens have lifted curbs and opted to live with the disease, even though it has taken so long, others wondered why it had taken so long.

A year ago, the rest of the world did this, so why didn't we do this earlier? One user wrote on WeChat. The people are so exhausted, wrote another.