Coronavirus pandemic
Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more
Chinese citizens are being encouraged not to travel for the Lunar New Year holiday because of concerns the usual mass migration to the countryside and back will spread Covid-19. Photo: Getty Images

Chinese paid to not travel for Lunar New Year holiday amid concern Covid-19 will be spread if the usual mass migration happens

  • Chinese companies and local governments are paying people in cities to not travel for family reunions and sightseeing during the Lunar New Year holiday
  • They are offering money, shopping vouchers, movie tickets and other incentives to stay in cities and minimise the risk of Covid-19 spreading as millions travel
Phoebe Zhangin Shenzhen

Companies and local governments are offering workers and urban residents financial incentives to stay at home ahead of China’s New Year celebrations next month.

Cash bonuses, shopping vouchers, movie tickets, free entry to local attractions, and even food and decorations are among the incentives being offered to deter Chinese people from the customary mass migration that occurs every year at this time as they travel to be reunited with families.

Lunar New Year is the most important holiday in China. The 16-day celebration – which culminates in the main event on February 12 this year – usually includes reunions with loved ones and trips to locations that usually attract large crowds.

Chinese transport authorities estimate that 300 million rail trips alone will be made across the country during the celebrations this year. Last year’s lockdowns and government travel bans saw a drop of 50.3 per cent to 1.47 billion journeys – including air, train and bus travel – from the previous year.

There were literally billions of trips made during in Chinese New Year in 2019. This year, the government is taking steps to reduce the number of people travelling. Photo: EPA-EFE/STR
With China battling to contain a spike in coronavirus cases that sent 11 million people in Heibei province into lockdown last week and saw the northeastern province of Heilongjiang on the Russian border declare a state of emergency, officials are calling for the country to proceed cautiously with celebrations.

Local administrators in Foshan, a factory town in Guangdong, southern China sent an open letter to residents offering shopping vouchers, free entry to tourist spots, movie tickets, food and new year decorations to entice them to not travel to be with families.

Chinese urged not to make ‘unnecessary’ trips home for Lunar New Year

“Reducing the risk of spreading the virus, protecting yourself and your family, these are the best presents you can give yourselves as well as your city,” the letter said. “We sincerely suggest that you stay with Foshan for the 2021 new year.”

In Xiangcheng, a district in the city of Suzhou in Jiangsu province west of Shanghai, the local government has pledged to give residents 500 yuan (US$77) each and to halve the cost to companies of renting state-owned flats if they offer the same gift to their employees.

In Haicang, a district of Xiamen in Fujian province, southeast China, the government announced a subsidy of 11 million yuan for residents who stay in the port city during the celebrations.

A man rides an escalator at a large empty shopping area in Beijing that would usually be busy ahead of the Chinese New Year. Photo: Getty Images

“A temporary parting is for a better reunion,” China’s state broadcaster CCTV declared. “Let us persist and welcome a victory.”