Press conference on epidemic control in post-Spring Festival travel rush

A press conference was held Saturday afternoon to introduce various measures related to COVID-19 epidemic prevention and control during the post-Spring Festival travel rush. February 18, 2020


Mr. Liu has just briefed us the situation, saying that in contrast to previous years, there is no peak in this year's post-Spring Festival travel. But analysis by some experts has shown that there will be a more concentrated return flow. Could you please give us more details: how many people will return to work in the coming period and which groups are they? Thank you.

Liu Xiaoming:   

Thank you for your question. We have three days to go before the end of the Spring Festival travel rush. As I just said, according to our comprehensive research, under the influence of the epidemic, we will not see a peak in this year's post-Spring Festival travel. The current data also proves this.

Starting from the first day of the Chinese New Year until yesterday, that is, Feb. 14 (the 21st day of the first lunar month), there were a total of 283 million passengers, with a daily average of 13.48 million. Most of these were people returning to work from their hometowns after spending time with their families and a few were rural migrant workers. Compared with the same period last year, this figure has dropped by 82.3%.

With the resumption of work, it is expected that by the end of February, most of the passengers will be rural migrant workers returning to their jobs. There will not be large numbers of tourists or people on business trip in the short-term. The figures are much smaller than previous years and the span of the Spring Festival travel will be extended. That is to say, there will be peak time, but the figure will be only about 1/5 or 1/6 that of last year. According to forecasts, from Feb. 19 to the end of this month, the number of passengers will be 160 million, with an average of 14.55 million per day, which accounts for approximately 1/5 to 1/6 of the same period last year.

The government has sent out a notification providing guidance for off-peak travel. We have good synergy between relevant departments to ensure that passengers can return to work in an orderly manner. It is expected that starting from March, migrant workers may gradually start returning to work, as well as about 100 million students returning to schools according to school notifications.

This is also the case for highway traffic flow across China. Since Feb. 9, which is also the 16th day of the first lunar month, the daily average amount of highway traffic was 5.99 million trips, 21.27 million less than that of the previous year, registering a 78.01% decrease. That is less than a quarter of that in the previous year. It is estimated that throughout the entire period of COVID-19 prevention and control, there will be low numbers of highway traffic across China. Traffic will increase as people return to work, but the peak figure will only stand at one fifth or sixth of that in the previous year. Thank you.

Li Jian:   

Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the number of passenger trips via civil aviation has seen a significant drop. From Jan. 25 to Feb. 14, an average of 470,000 passengers flew per day, a quarter of the number from the same period last year. Following the deployment of the joint prevention and control mechanism to effectively reduce the number of passenger trips, the Civil Aviation Administration (CAAS) has issued four consecutive free refund policies since Jan. 21. So far, more than 20 million flight tickets worth over 20 billion yuan ($2.86 billion) have been refunded free of charge.

It is estimated that passenger numbers will continue to decline in the days to come. From Feb. 15 to 23, the average amount of daily passengers is not expected to exceed 200,000, less than 1/10 of peak periods, and a load factor of less than 40%. With this in mind, CAAS believes that passenger trips made by civil aviation will have the following three characteristics.

First, it can be confirmed that there will not be a peak of return travelers similar to previous years in the near future. The current capacity of civil aviation is relatively sufficient. Even if the demand on individual routes rises, it can be monitored at any time and dealt with calmly.

Second, the direction of passenger trips is similar to that of previous years. Passengers travel from big cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou before the Spring Festival, and return to these cities after the holiday.

Third, there will not be any overlapping of different passenger flows. The cancellation of over 20 million flight tickets has minimized the "non-rigid demand" of taking flights. Many passengers cancelled their business trips, family visits and vacation plans because of the spread of COVID-19. Employees of government bodies, enterprises and institutions who were on business trips have also returned in advance. This has reduced our workload regarding the passenger trips by civil aviation.

Over the coming days, the majority of passengers are expected to be migrant workers and students. As the date to return to school hasn't been settled, CAAS has already introduced free change and cancellation policies for student passengers, so as to help guide them to delay their trips. These policies will be updated once a date is announced. Thank you.

Li Wenxin:   

I would like to add a few words. The CPC Central Committee and the State Council have adopted a series of powerful measures to implement a staggered return after the holiday to reduce the risk of spreading the epidemic, and have now achieved significant results. It was estimated that the number of railway passenger trips after the Spring Festival would reach 280 million, with an average of 11.2 million per day. However, we have actually only seen a total of 40 million passenger trips as of Feb.14, with an average of 1.84 million each day, down 83% from the same period last year. Since Feb. 11, the daily number of passengers using rail has been less than 1 million for four consecutive days, and a total 115 million rail tickets have been refunded. Therefore, after research and discussion, we are sure that there will not be a "peak" of travelers in the coming days like years before.

Passenger trips via rail consist of five categories: business trips, tourism, family visits, students and migrant workers. Specifically, there has been a dramatic decrease in business trips, tourism is unlikely and family visits have already concluded. As for student passenger trips, many provinces and cities have announced that school will not resume until the end of February. Thus, student passengers will not overlap with migrant workers. Also, the resumption dates in different regions and schools will be different, as to avoid people traveling all at once. Therefore, the passenger trips of migrant workers, which account for 20% of the total estimated amount, become the main component of trips returning to cities after the Spring Festival. It is estimated that there will be a total 56 million migrant workers. As 29 million of them have finished their trips, there are still 27 million to go. Because companies in different regions resume work at different times, these 27 million will not constitute a "peak." Based on pre-sales of rail tickets, it is estimated that less than 1 million tickets will be sold in peak days from today to the end of February. This is fewer than one tenth of the same period in the year before. This also indicates that the passenger trips made by rail will continue to stand at low levels, and there will be no large-scale flows of travelers.

Regarding return transportation, the railway department is fully prepared. We have precisely arranged the staggered shift return capacity and implemented a decentralized ticketing strategy. We are not selling standing tickets, no passengers will be seated directly beside one another, and we are controlling a seat occupancy rate at around 50%. We can handle 8 million passengers a day. Calculated at a seat occupancy rate of 50%, we would have 4 million passengers making daily trips. The current daily passenger travel demand is under one million trips. To deal with large flows of incoming and outgoing migrant workers, we will organize special trains or chartered trains to ensure staggered return trips. Thank you. 

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