Crowds throng to celebrate New Year’s Eve in China despite Covid wave

Beijing, Jan 1 (EFE).- Large crowds gathered in several Chinese cities to welcome the new year in the absence of anti-Covid restrictions, even though the country faces its biggest wave of infections, which, according to some sources, has resulted in thousands of deaths every day.

According to posts on social networks, thousands of people gathered overnight in the most iconic places if cities such as Chongqing (center), Wuhan (center), Shijiazhuang (north), Lanzhou (west) and Zhengzhou (center) to witness the countdown to usher in the year 2023.

“People have been oppressed for too long. It’s time to celebrate,” commented a user on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, referring to the harsh lockdown imposed across the country since the pandemic started three years ago.

During the anti-covid measures, festive activities such as setting up New Year’s Eve markets or the traditional ringing of bells in some religious spaces were banned in many cities.

Many people in China took advantage of the festive weekend to travel, following the recent withdrawal of PCR testing requirements and other controls that had complicated movement within the country for months.

The Beijing transport commission said air transport in the city reached a peak this weekend, exceeding the threshold of 1,000 daily flights for the first time since the scapping of the stringent zero Covid policy.

The central province of Shaanxi estimated that there would be up to six times more train travel in its territory during this period compared to last year.

Although many netizens expressed their satisfaction at seeing large crowds celebrating again, others criticized the holding of such mass events.

“This is equivalent to a wave of infections in three or four days,” warned a Weibo commentator concerned about the pressure on hospitals in several cities of the country.

The return of normalcy in the festivities come as Covid continues to spread across the country, even though the government reported only one coronavirus death on Saturday.

The rapid spread of the virus across the country has cast doubt on the reliability of official data, which have recorded only a handful of recent deaths from the disease despite the fact that localities and provinces have estimated that a significant proportion of their populations have been infected.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Sichuan (center), one of the most populous provinces with more than 80 million inhabitants, estimated this week that 63 percent of its residents have been infected with Covid, according to a study based on surveys of 158,000 people.

The situation in China has led to countries like the United States, Spain, Italy, India, Taiwan, Japan, England and Australia imposing restrictions on arrivals from China.

The measures, which include mandatory Covid test before departure from China, has led to criticism from the foreign ministry at Beijing, which called for “scientific” protocols in this regard.

The World Health Organization too has expressed concern over the developments in the Asian country and called for Beijing to disclose further information from the authorities about the infections.

According to estimates by British firm Airfinity, which conducts surveillance and analysis of infectious diseases, China is currently facing some 9,000 coronavirus deaths everyday. EFE


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