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Sunday, January 22, 2023

China rings in Lunar New 12 months with most COVID guidelines lifted


BEIJING — Folks throughout China rang within the Lunar New 12 months on Sunday with massive household gatherings and crowds visiting temples after the federal government lifted its strict “zero-COVID” coverage, marking the largest festive celebration for the reason that pandemic started three years in the past.

The Lunar New 12 months is a very powerful annual vacation in China. Every year is called after one of many 12 indicators of the Chinese language zodiac in a repeating cycle, with this 12 months being the 12 months of the Rabbit. For the previous three years, celebrations have been muted within the shadow of the pandemic.

With the easing of most COVID-19 restrictions, many individuals might lastly make their first journey again to their hometowns to reunite with their households with out worrying in regards to the hassles of quarantine, potential lockdowns and suspension of journey. Bigger public celebrations additionally returned for what is called the Spring Pageant in China, with the capital internet hosting hundreds of cultural occasions — on a bigger scale than a 12 months in the past.

In Beijing, many worshippers provided morning prayers on the Lama Temple however the crowds gave the impression to be smaller in comparison with pre-pandemic days. The Tibetan Buddhist website permits as much as 60,000 guests a day, citing security causes, and requires an advance reservation.

Throngs of residents and vacationers swarmed pedestrian streets within the Qianmen space close to Tiananmen Sq.. Lots of them loved snacks from barbecue and New 12 months rice cake stands, and a few kids wore conventional Chinese language rabbit hats. Others held blown sugar or marshmallows formed like rabbits.

Beijing resident Si Jia mentioned she felt that life in Beijing was again to regular typically, pointing to the return of vacationers. She mentioned she introduced her 7-year-old son to Qianmen to expertise the festive vibe in Beijing and find out about conventional Chinese language tradition.

“He has by no means skilled what a standard new 12 months is like as a result of he was too younger three years in the past and he had no reminiscence of that,” she mentioned. “However this 12 months I can present him round right here.”

At Taoranting Park, there was no signal of the standard bustling New 12 months meals stalls regardless of its walkways being adorned with conventional Chinese language lanterns. A preferred temple honest at Badachu Park that was suspended for 3 years will probably be again this week, however related occasions at Ditan Park and Longtan Lake Park have but to return.

The mass motion of individuals might trigger the virus to unfold in sure areas, mentioned Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiologist at China’s Middle for Illness Management. However a large-scale COVID-19 surge will probably be unlikely within the subsequent two or three months as a result of about 80% of the nation’s 1.4 billion folks have been contaminated throughout the latest wave, he wrote on the social media platform Weibo on Saturday.

The middle individually reported 12,660 COVID-19-related deaths between Jan. 13 and 19. The assertion on Saturday mentioned these “deaths associated to COVID” occurred in hospitals, which implies anybody who died at residence wouldn’t be included within the tally. Final week, China reported practically 60,000 deaths in individuals who had COVID-19 since early December.

China has counted solely deaths from pneumonia or respiratory failure in its official COVID-19 loss of life toll, a slim definition that excludes many deaths that will be attributed to COVID-19 in a lot of the world.

In Hong Kong, revelers flocked to town’s largest Taoist temple, Wong Tai Sin Temple, to burn the primary incense sticks of the 12 months. The location’s standard ritual was suspended the final two years as a result of pandemic.

Historically, massive crowds collect earlier than 11 p.m. on Lunar New 12 months’s Eve, with everybody making an attempt to be the primary, or among the many first, to place their incense sticks into the stands in entrance of the temple’s primary corridor. Worshippers consider those that are among the many first to put their incense sticks will stand one of the best likelihood of getting their prayers answered.

Native resident Freddie Ho, who visited the temple on Saturday evening, was comfortable that he might be a part of the occasion in particular person.

“I hope to put the primary incense stick and pray that the New 12 months brings world peace, that Hong Kong’s financial system will prosper, and that the pandemic will go away from us and we will all dwell a standard life,” Ho mentioned. “I consider that is what everybody needs.”

In the meantime, the crowds praying for success on the historic Longshan Temple in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, have been smaller than a 12 months in the past even because the pandemic has eased. That’s partly as a result of many individuals there had ventured to different components of Taiwan or abroad on long-awaited journeys.

As communities throughout Asia welcomed the 12 months of the Rabbit, the Vietnamese have been celebrating the 12 months of the Cat as a substitute. There’s no official reply to clarify the distinction. However one principle suggests cats are standard as a result of they typically assist Vietnamese rice farmers to thrust back rats.

Related Press researcher Henry Hou, video journalist Emily Wang and video producer Olivia Zhang in Beijing and video journalists Alice Fung in Hong Kong and Taijing Wu in Taipei, Taiwan contributed to this report.

Discover extra of AP’s Asia-Pacific protection at https://apnews.com/hub/asia-pacific

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