As October has arrived, hundreds of millions of Chinese are packing their bags towards highways, trains and planes for the National Day holiday, one of the busiest times for travel in the world's most populous country.
The occasion of joy is bringing major concern as the wght days long break going to be the first long vacation since the coronavirus had emerged on their land in last December, reports CNN.
While life has largely returned to normal in recent months, the upcoming "Golden Week" holiday will be an ambitious test of China's success in taming the virus -- and a much-awaited boost to its economic recovery.
Last year, a total of 782 million domestic trips were made during the holiday, generating nearly 650 billion yuan ($95 billion) of tourism revenue, according to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
The ministry predicts 550 million domestic trips to be made this year, while Ctrip, China's largest online travel agency, estimates the number to be over 600 million -- both above 70% of last year's level.
The scale of mass movement in such a short period of time is unthinkable in many parts of the world, where governments are still struggling to control soaring infections. In the United States, the number of coronavirus cases topped 7 million over the weekend. Much of Europe is now in the grip of a second wave of infections; even countries largely spared by the first wave, such as Greece and Croatia, have seen cases surging as tourists took summer vacations following the reopening of Europe's internal borders in June.
But for now, the virus is much less of a concern for Chinese holidaymakers, given China's close to zero local transmission and some of the world's strictest border control measures.
Chen Qianmei, a 29-year-old from the southern city of Guangzhou, flew to Shanghai on Tuesday for her vacation. She said she wasn't worried about the virus, although she still took precautions.
"I think China has (the virus) under pretty good control," she said.
"I'm wearing masks and bringing alcohol wipes with me to clean my hands, especially before eating -- although in Shanghai, few people wear masks now."
It has been more than eight months now that China's restrictions on domestic movement have all been lifted. Officially, some cities still require passengers to produce a green health code on their smartphones at train stations and airports to show they're safe to travel, but implementation can be lax in practice.
In a sign of the government's confidence in keeping the virus under control, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that domestic travels can be arranged "as normal" for the upcoming holiday, given all cities in mainland China are marked as low risk for the coronavirus.
But the center still recommended travelers obey local epidemic control measures, wear masks on trains, flights and in crowded places, and keep 1-meter (3.2 feet) distance at tourist spots -- the last of which could be difficult if not impossible to observe, given the size of crowds that often inundate popular sites during Chinese holidays.
Last week, China's Culture and Tourism Ministry ordered tourist sites to restrict capacity to 75% during the Golden Week, up from a limit of 50% from previous months. To facilitate contact tracing, visitors are required to register online in advance.
Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese CDC, told state broadcaster CCTV earlier this month that there is no need to impose extra restrictions for domestic travel during the National Day holiday, because the coronavirus is no longer circulating in society.
"It is now impossible to contract the virus in social environments," he said. "Although we are still finding dozens of imported cases among travelers arriving in China on international flights, the imported cases are managed in a closed loop and won't spread to society, and therefore won't have much impact on domestic residents."