Passengers wait for trains at Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station in Shanghai on Jan 3, 2021. YIN LIQIN/CHINA NEWS SERVICE Government moves to strengthen pandemic control efforts nationwide Seven central government departments have encouraged migrant workers to stay in the cities where they are working during Spring Festival and will launch an operation to guarantee workers' welfare and enterprises' production. A circular jointly issued by the seven departments, including the ministries of human resources and social security, industry and information technology, and civil affairs, introduced the move on Saturday. It said they will launch a nationwide operation from Jan 21 to the end of March to encourage and guide migrant employees to stay in the cities where they are working during Spring Festival to strengthen COVID-19 pandemic prevention and control efforts nationwide. Sporadic outbreaks of the disease have been seen in some provincial-level regions recently. The National Health Commission said the Chinese mainland had 1,205 confirmed COVID-19 patients as of Saturday, with the newly reported domestic cases found in Beijing and Hebei province in northern China and the northeastern provinces of Heilongjiang and Jilin. The operation will also provide labor guarantees for key enterprises and employers facing a shortage of workers during Spring Festival. Governments at all levels will organize various activities during the festival. Companies are being encouraged to issue red envelopes, organize cultural and recreational activities, ensure vacations and other benefits are preserved and raise salaries to motivate employees to stay. The circular also said basic services such as food, healthcare, public security and firefighting should be secured. It said the departments will guide enterprises to make reasonable arrangements for production and adopt staggered vacation plans. They will also implement policies such as refunding unemployment insurance and subsidizing vocational training, and guide enterprises to minimize the laying off of workers. They will organize companies to carry out online and offline services for employees and hold frequent recruitment fairs. The government departments will also promptly cash out unemployment insurance benefits and offer temporary living allowances to eligible people. After the festival, the departments will arrange for migrant workers in rural areas to return to work in an orderly manner. Government services offering help to those looking for work will give priority to groups such as people recently lifted out of poverty and rural residents on low incomes. Beijing, one of the cities attracting the most migrant workers, is expected to see a drop in people leaving the city for the upcoming holiday. The Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport estimated that the number of trips leaving the capital during the Spring Festival travel rush, which will run from Jan 28 to March 8, will be 13.42 million, a year-on-year drop of 43 percent.