Taipei’s downtown Songshan airport on Thursday began offering travellers the chance to do just that, with some 60 people eager to get going, albeit to nowhere. Around 7,000 people applied to take part, the winners chosen by random.
The latest decision could send free-spending Chinese tourists to revenue-starved destinations in Asia and Europe for Lunar New Year, which begins on Jan.22 and usually is the country's busiest travel season. But it also presents a danger they might spread COVID-19 as infections surge in China.
Beijing is on high alert for new outbreaks as it prepares to host the Winter Olympics next month, sticking to a "zero-Covid" strategy of targeted lockdowns, border restrictions and lengthy quarantines.
At least 20 confirmed or preliminary positive cases were found in a public housing block in the Kwai Chung neighbourhood, said health chief Sophia Chan. "Clearly there is a community outbreak and the situation is worrying," Chan told reporters.
Since March, a patchwork of restrictions has kept most of the city's 25 million residents confined to their homes or compounds, with daily caseloads regularly edging over 25,000.
The five-day break is typically one of China's busiest travel periods, but the country's worst Covid resurgence since early in the pandemic is likely to keep people home.
The city of 21 million has already ordered three rounds of mass testing this week for the virus, with the third due to take place on Friday, and closed down some communities where cases were found.
After originally taking a more piecemeal approach aimed at minimising economic disruptions, Shanghai imposed broader restrictions last week as authorities struggled to contain what has become the city's biggest COVID-19 outbreak.
Around 25 million people remain locked down in China's largest city and financial centre, as authorities try to snuff out the country's most severe virus outbreak since the end of the first pandemic wave in early 2020.