China claims Covid peak has passed as millions travel home for New Year

Beijing, Jan 20 (EFE).- While China, which lifted restrictions in December following three years of tough zero-Covid rules, claims to have already passed the peak of severe cases of Covid-19, the upcoming Lunar New Year celebrations are expected to lead to another spike in infections as millions of people travel home for the holidays.

The country’s National health Commission said Thursday that “about 80%” of Chinese “megacities” had already seen infections peak in December and early January.

“We are seeing the peak of the epidemic declining now, with the numbers of urgent patients and severe cases both decreasing, and many hospitals have overcome the most severe situation of shortages of beds and medical staff,” Zeng Guang, former chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told the state-run Global Times.

But while officials are attempting to put a positive spin on the figures, the impending New Year celebration is sure to see a resurgence of the virus, particularly in rural areas as cities empty out for the holiday period, with Zeng admitting that these regions face “growing challenges during the Spring Festival period”.

The start of the Lunar New Year festive season — which this year falls between January 21 and 27, and the associated 40-day period of increased domestic travel known as “chunyun”, the largest annual migration in the world — is expected to trigger another uptick in coronavirus cases, despite authorities’ claims that the country has already seen the worst of the epidemic.

For the first time since 2019, millions of people are making the journey home to their families, with 46.1 million trips made by Thursday this week, according to state media.

Amid such a busy travel period, Chinese authorities recently asked localities to prepare for a possible spread of the virus in rural areas, where many return to during the holidays, given the “relative scarcity of health resources”.

According to a recent study by Peking University, around 900 million people have already been infected with Covid, and some 60,000 people died from the disease between December 8 and January 12, according to official figures.

A study by the British health sector analysis company Airfinity said that the number of Covid deaths in China during the Lunar New Year vacations, due to the high number of travelers, could reach 36,000 per day. EFE


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