The coronavirus pandemic has thwarted the plans of millions of Chinese who would attend family reunions to celebrate the Chinese New Year from this Friday (12).
Those who have tried to enjoy the most important holidays in the country, marked by parties that last for days, parades that draw crowds to the streets and large reunions between family members who have not seen each other since long, have had to adapt to the restrictions that were in place and have been tightened, in an attempt to contain new cases of Covid-19.
Travelers arriving in Beijing, for example, must show a negative result for coronavirus and comply with a 14-day quarantine in facilities suitable for isolation – which, in practice, make any celebration impossible.
To encourage their citizens to stay at home, the Chinese authorities distributed gifts to the people, such as gift baskets and sweets (a New Year’s tradition) and 40 million yuan (33.2 million reais) in discount coupons for online shopping.
In the Chinese capital, businessmen have been encouraged by the government to pay overtime to employees who forgo travel. In Shanghai, the solitary confinement incentives included plans to pay phone bills and medical bills for those who stayed at home. The aim was to prevent residents of major Chinese cities from traveling to meet friends and family in rural areas, considered relatively free from the coronavirus.
It worked. Data from the Chinese Ministry of Transport shows a 70% drop in the number of passenger trips across the country in the two weeks leading up to the holidays compared to the same period in 2019 – last year the party was also largely hampered by the pandemic.
In Wuhan, where the first cases of Covid-19 were identified, New Year’s Eve was marked by last-minute shoppers who took to the city streets. In the first epicenter of the pandemic, the mood was optimistic, despite the restrictions.
“I’m happy,” Song Bo, 33, told Reuters news agency. “Last year we sat at home doing nothing and slept all day. This year, although we still have to wear masks, it is much better.
CCTV, the Chinese public broadcaster, aired its traditional gala parade, a sort of “turnaround” that has been broadcast since 1983. One of the attraction’s four-hour art performances, however, drew criticism and accusations of racism.
Chinese dancers wore costumes that looked like a traditional African dress and painted their faces with brown and black makeup to simulate black skin. Known as blackface, the practice is widely seen as discriminatory, but according to the spokesperson for Chinese diplomacy, who stressed that the racism in this case “sows discord with ulterior motives.”
Other vehicles linked to Xi Jinping’s regime, such as the People’s Daily and the Global Times, have praised the people’s “choice” to stay at home and the economic revival of online shopping.
On social media and in independent journalism, however, there are numerous reports of those who felt the restrictions too severe, especially for the working class and the millions of immigrants who would have to pay for coronavirus tests themselves. if they wanted to travel.
Unlike Westerners, the Chinese calendar has the moon as a parameter – a reason the holiday is also referred to as the Lunar New Year. The first day of the year therefore coincides with the first day of the new moon after the winter solstice, a date which is generally between January 20 and February 18.
Traditionally, each new year has a connection with one of the signs of the Chinese horoscope. If 2020 was the Year of the Rat, it will be the Year of the Ox, and corresponds to 4719 in the Chinese calendar, ending on January 31, 2022.