COVID catastrophe looms for Chinese New Year travelers

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The sudden dismantling of China’s “zero-COVID” restrictions in December means hundreds of millions of people are heading home for the Lunar New Year holiday for the first time since 2019. it to all corners of the country.

Travelers, from migrant workers to college students to educated urban elites, risk carrying the highly contagious omicron strain into COVID-naive parts of rural China that have managed to evade the pandemic — until now.

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Known as the world’s largest human migration, the holiday traditionally involves packed planes, trains, buses and ferries departing from major cities along China’s prosperous east coast to remote hinterlands as workers reunite with their families ahead of the Lunar New Year, which starts on Sunday. This year, they may be taking COVID-19 with them and exposing their loved ones to it for the first time.

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