Hopes high as Year of Ox begins in China

·1-min read

The Chinese people are welcoming the new year according to the traditional lunar calendar, with the coronavirus-blighted Year of the Rat making way for a hopefully more auspicious Year of the Ox.

People born this year are considered reliable workers and good leaders.

Professional fortune tellers have been filling the media with predictions of good luck, saying they expect a more harmonious and more peaceful 2021.

Still, it will be the second year in a row that COVID-19 casts a shadow over the celebrations.

After several localised outbreaks, authorities had urged the billion-strong population not to travel back home for the most important Chinese family festival.

With one in five Chinese not working where their family is from, in a normal year China experiences the world's largest annual migration during the holiday.

This year, however, the number of trips is expected to drop by 60 per cent, the Ministry of Transport forecast.

Strict instructions from officials and employers, as well as incentives such as cash gifts, have been used to persuade many millions not to travel.

Stories abound of bosses demanding termination beforehand if one of their employees wants to travel.

Some local authorities also threatened home-comers with two weeks of forced quarantine, meaning they would not be able to see their loved ones and use up most of their New Year holiday time in isolation.

Temple fairs, fireworks displays and traditional New Year markets were cancelled to avoid large crowds.