DALIAN, China -- Chinese travel during the remainder of the Lunar New Year is expected to fall about 70% from last year's holiday, a Ministry of Transport official said Thursday, as a deadly coronavirus outbreak disrupts one of the biggest annual movements of people in the world.
About 1.32 billion trips were made during from Jan. 10 to Wednesday, marking a 35% drop from 2019, Cai Tuanjie, an official with the Ministry of Transport, said at a news conference in Beijing.
The volume of travel is expected to shrink further as the 40-day holiday period to Feb. 18 comes to a close.
"Over 13 million plane tickets had been returned by Feb. 4," Yu Biao, an official with the Civil Aviation Administration of China, said at the news conference, adding that there would not be a return travel peak as in previous years.
In the 27-day period so far, roughly 1.07 billion journeys were made by road, down 36% from 2019, when the holiday fell at a different time. Rail travel fell 26% to 197 million trips. Air travel declined 27% to 35 million trips.
In early January, the government had forecast 3 billion trips for the full holiday period between Jan. 10 and Feb. 18.
People in China are staying put as new coronavirus infections and the death toll surges. Since Jan. 29, travel volume has plunged more than 80% to a daily average of roughly 13 million trips amid quarantines in Wuhan and other cities.
For air travel, reservations from Thursday to Feb. 12 are expected to come to about 40% of the year-earlier level.