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Over 52% of scheduled daily flights had been cancelled across China as of January 28.

China’s transport ministry is expecting a big fall in travel during the Lunar New Year period, threatening further cuts to gasoline and jet fuel demand.

Passenger travel will see a “significant decrease” to a total of around 1.15bn journeys, or a daily average of about 28.8mn during the 40-day chunyun (travel rush) Lunar New Year travel period that starts January 28, a transport ministry official said. This would be down by 20% from the Lunar New Year in 2020 and more than 60% lower than in 2019, the last holiday period that was not affected by Covid-19.

The latest forecast is also significantly lower than the 1.7bn journeys that the transport ministry was predicting as recently as last week.

Over 52% of scheduled daily flights — 7,749 of 14,709 — had been cancelled across China as of 17:30 January 28, according to Chinese flight data provider Variflight. Rail passenger numbers today are expected to be 66% lower than the corresponding day last year, at around 4mn, State Railway said.

The curbs will weigh on transportation fuel demand in what is typically a peak period. Road passenger volumes — an indicator of demand for road fuels, especially gasoline — usually rise by over 20% month on month in the chunyun period, national bureau of statistics data indicate. Gasoline demand hit 3.11mn b/d in January-February 2019.

Road passenger volumes slumped by more than 80% in last year’s chunyun period compared to a month earlier as China imposed the world’s first nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

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