a decent return to normal
This year 2023 is very special as it marks the Year of the Rabbit. Kick off in style with the first post-Covid New Year celebrations without restrictions. I chose to stay with close friends in Beijing for a somewhat special family gathering. I participated in many activities with them, such as cooking dumplings, playing mah-jong and visiting New Year’s markets, which are a bit like our Christmas markets. During this Spring Festival, we were able to spend days in hot springs and skiing without even having to take a PCR test, scan QR codes, or wear a mask.
Before COVID, I had the opportunity to celebrate several Spring Festivals. Indeed, in 2015, I had the chance to come to Beijing to study with a scholarship from the Chinese government. I knew then that I would never leave China again. In fact, in 2018, I started my master’s degree in translation at Beijing Language and Culture University. When everything was going very well, but two years later, a shadow was added to the picture: COVID-19. Since then, everything has been different.
Near the end of my studies, the pandemic manifested itself, and very quickly things took a somewhat unexpected turn. Many foreign friends wanted to leave China to spend the holidays with their families. I did not make this choice and I do not regret not returning to France at the same time as them. I would risk not being able to return to China.
As soon as the problem started to grow a little, China reacted very quickly and took the situation seriously. Certain customs played a defining role in China. For example, wearing a well-established mask in China for a long time made things much easier. On the other hand, it is generally well accepted to sacrifice a few freedoms for the good of all.
Evolution in the years of COVID
The measures taken by China during the pandemic have allowed the virus to slow down and even eliminate it in certain cities. But these three years were quite complicated, an atmosphere of concern reigned throughout China. The population moved very little, many people did not return home for long even during the Chinese New Year celebrations, which are very important here. It was the same for me, I haven’t been back to France since 2018 and I haven’t left Beijing since 2019. For three years, I did not dare to leave Beijing for fear of being stuck together. city. Moreover, according to the China Ministry of Culture and Tourism survey on domestic tourism, 2.87 billion domestic trips were made in 2020, 3.24 billion in 2021, and 2.53 billion in 2022, compared to 2019. 6 billion per year. internal visits were made.
On the other hand, despite the difficulties we faced, the sense of security allowed us to tell ourselves that it was just a dream. China’s aggressive zero COVID policy has generally worked well and made us feel safe from the virus. The Chinese people are extraordinarily resilient, which is partly why China has been able to make so much progress in containing and controlling the pandemic.
But that’s not all, China has been a hyper-connected country for several years now, we can call it the “country of practicality”. The economy and daily life has already relied on home delivery of meals, groceries and more thanks to its apps. These are essential goods, thanks in part to the delivery workers who work tirelessly to meet the needs of the public, and the volunteers who can help in the communities, the factory and the warehouse. employees who are confident that they can do everything they can to make people’s lives easier.
Changes and the next world
Over the years, the understanding of COVID has improved. Experts are increasingly identifying the virus. But despite all their will, three years is a relatively long time for the entire population. For three years, when no one knew if this situation would ever end, it was felt in the morale of the people. In mid-2022, when the biggest wave of COVID hit Beijing, I also began to have doubts and wondered if it was time to go home. But luckily I continued. After three years of stubbornly battling the virus, in December of that year, China decided the time was right to ease restrictions.
With the relentless help of volunteers and medical professionals, China has enough perspective and experience with the virus to move forward. However, it is not without fear that life bravely runs its course. Moreover, the streets were almost empty within days of the restrictions being lifted. Everyone thought of the elderly and the most vulnerable, or were sick and stayed at home to take care of themselves. With a virus more contagious than ever, it’s not easy to slip through the cracks. But these are the risks that must be taken in order to finally be able to roam and live as freely as before. Plus, I wasn’t surprised by the flurry of pollution, and I caught the virus in mid-December, as did many of my expat and Chinese friends, which in itself was a relief. We didn’t have to sacrifice Christmas, New Year and Chinese New Year.
But apart from this period, which will eventually pass, we see above all that slowly people are finally walking. Shops, restaurants and parks are full of life again. The dynamism of the city is felt once again. We can finally enjoy meeting friends in a cafe and the New Year’s atmosphere, which has noticeably lost its flavor in recent years. Now that the worst is behind us, we must embrace life after the pandemic.
According to Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, who attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, inter-provincial travel has already largely recovered, with five billion trips planned for this Spring Festival period alone, which surpasses all understanding and proves that all is well. back to normal. For the Chinese people around me, this is an opportunity to finally be free to return home and truly enjoy the time they spend with their loved ones after being deprived of it for three years. With these new opportunities available to us, we will finally have the opportunity to explore new regions of China. All that remains is to revive international tourism a little more, and finally we can say that a page has really been turned. That last point is already on track, with China lifting its mandatory quarantine for travelers arriving from abroad on January 8.