China on Sunday celebrated the end of the two weeks of festivities marking the start of the Lunar New Year, a day tarnished by heavy smog that - once again - covered a large number of country's main cities.

After several days of blue skies, Beijing and the northern part of the country woke on Sunday covered by dense fog, and the same situation prevailed in the central and eastern regions, the weather service, which issued a yellow alert - No. 2 in terms of seriousness - because of the pollution and recommended that people remain in their homes, said.

In many areas, visibility was reduced to 1,000 meters (about 0.7 mile), although it is expected that in the coming days rain or snow will improve the situation.

The heavy air pollution registered in China's main cities in January and February has raised concerns about the bad environmental situation and created pressures on Beijing to step up measures to reduce contamination, including a tax on CO2 emissions.

In any case, Chinese celebrated the Lantern Festival on Sunday along with their families, shooting off the last fireworks they had acquired for the Lunar New Year, given that this is the last occasion on which that is allowed by the authorities.

The Lantern Festival marks the first full moon of the new Chinese year, which for 2013 is the Year of the Snake, and it wraps up two weeks of fireworks, banquets and gift-giving. EFE