Since more than a billion trips are expected to be made by travelers, the Spring Festival travel rush undoubtedly poses a challenge to the country’s prevention and control work, since it may be possible for people who are infected with the novel coronavirus but not showing symptoms to infect others when traveling.
This is especially true as many migrant workers will be returning to their home villages in rural areas. With the arrival of winter, there has been an uptick in the number of infections. Most of these have been in rural areas in North and Northeast China where the temperatures are much lower than in South China.
Requiring those returning to their home villages to be tested for the virus would effectively reduce the risk of the epidemic entering the countryside and ensure that everyone can enjoy a healthy and safe Spring Festival.
That is why an official of the National Health Commission said at a news conference on Wednesday that all those who are traveling to rural areas during the Spring Festival travel period must have a valid certificate for a negative nucleic acid test result.
So whether to go home or not has become a pressing question for migrant workers.
Spring Festival trips are normally concentrated a week before and after the Lunar New Year, which falls on Feb 12 this year. Hospitals will likely be crowded with would-be travelers a week before the start and end of this two week period, since a test result is valid only for seven days.
Of course, it would be safer and make the prevention and control work easier if the majority of rural migrant workers elected to stay where they work for the festival.
But if some in low-risk areas have a plan to go back to their home villages where no infections have been reported for months, perhaps it would be possible for tests to be organized for them at their places of work, as this would ease the pressure on testing stations. The charge for a test should also be as low as possible.
For those who choose to stay where they work for the festival, local governments may consider giving them subsidies or help arrange meals, which may possibly prompt more to stay in the places where they work rather than traveling back to their home villages.
It is important to prevent the virus from being spread in rural areas. But it is also no less important to take into consideration the difficulties workers from rural areas might face if they stay in the places where they work for the festival.