The facts: Ahead of the Lunar New Year travel season around February 12, China’s National Health Commission has imposed strict country-wide travel regulations. These include mandatory Covid-19 checks for all trans-provincial and some intra-provincial journeys, and a 14-day quarantine upon arrival. Shanghai, Beijing and several local governments have asked citizens to suspend travel plans, and Hebei, Jilin and some other provinces have even imposed total lockdowns. China plans to have 50 million people vaccinated by 12 February and mainly uses Chinese vaccines developed by Sinopharm and Sinovac that have reported efficacy rates ranging from 50.4 to 79 percent. China has been reporting between 50 and 150 new Covid-19 cases a day throughout January.
What to watch: Normal Lunar New Year celebrations are off the table. Too few people have been vaccinated and any clusters of Covid-19 cases threaten to unleash a new large-scale outbreak. So far, swift and uncompromising lockdowns and demanding regulations – such as vigorously enforced 14-day quarantines – have been effective.
MERICS analysis: The economic and social impact of the pandemic has been less severe in China than in many other parts of the world, including the EU. However, as the holiday season will likely be subdued, consumer spending, restaurant visits and tourism could be comparatively bleak. As a result, the lagging recovery of consumption will remain a challenge.
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This article was first published in the January 29, 2021 issue of MERICS China Briefing.