- Top official says Covid is at ‘relatively low’ level
- Hospitals, serious cases drop, authorities say
- More than 2 billion trips are expected during Lunar New Year
- Some fear infections may occur during the travel season
BEIJING, Jan 20 (Reuters) – People across China crowded trains and buses on Friday for its busiest day of travel in years, feeding fears of a new surge in a raging COVID-19 outbreak that officials say has peaked.
In comments carried by state media late on Thursday, Vice Premier Sun Chunlan said the virus was at a “relatively low” level, while health officials said the number of Covid patients in hospitals and with critical conditions was declining.
But China’s official account of an outbreak that has overwhelmed hospitals and funeral homes has been widely doubted since Beijing abandoned strict Covid controls and mass testing last month.
That policy U-turn, which followed historic protests against the government’s strict anti-virus restrictions, unleashed Covid on a population of 1.4 billion that had been largely spared the disease since it emerged in the city of Wuhan in late 2019.
Some health experts expect more than a million people to die from the disease in China this year, with British-based health information firm Airfinity predicting that 36,000 people could die of COVID-19 in a single day next week.
“Recently, the overall epidemic in the country is at a relatively low level,” Sun said in comments reported by state news agency Xinhua.
“The number of critically ill patients in hospitals continues to decline, although rescue operations are still heavy.”
His comments came on the eve of one of China’s most frenzied travel days since the outbreak of the pandemic in late 2019, as millions of city dwellers travel to their hometowns for the Lunar New Year holiday, which officially begins on Saturday.
More than 2 billion trips are expected across China between Jan. 7 and Feb. 15, the government estimates.
Excited passengers laden with luggage and gift boxes boarded the train on Friday, heading for the long-awaited family reunion.
“Everybody is eager to go home,” Li, 30, nicknamed the 30-year-old, told Reuters at Beijing’s West Railway Station.
But for others, the holiday commemorates lost loved ones.
Gu Bei, a writer from Shanghai, said on the Weibo social media platform that he had waited nearly two weeks to cremate his mother and that the funeral home could not tell him when the service would be scheduled.
China’s internet regulator said this week it would censor any “fake information” about the spread of the virus that could cause “gloomy” feelings during the Lunar New Year festival.
“I heard that no dark and gloomy words are allowed in the New Year. So let me mourn my mother now,” Gu said in her post, which did not specify the cause of her mother’s death.
In many provinces, funeral homes have increased costs for items ranging from body bags to cremation ovens. show documentOne of several indications of COVID’s lethal toll.
President Xi Jinping said this week that he anxious Regarding the influx of travelers to rural areas with weak medical systems, and protecting the elderly – many of whom were not fully vaccinated – was a top priority.
China saw a big jump in Covid hospitalizations in the week from January 15, the highest since the pandemic began, a World Health Organization report said on Thursday.
Hospitalizations rose 70% to 63,307 in the previous week, according to the WHO, citing data submitted by Beijing.
But at a news conference on Thursday, health officials said 40% fewer people were treated for serious conditions on January 17 than the peak on January 5, and the number of Covid patients reported in hospitals had peaked.
China said nearly 60,000 people with Covid-19 died in hospitals between December 8 and January 12. However, those who died at home were excluded and some doctors said they were discouraged from prescribing Covid. On the death certificate.
China’s reopening has been chaotic, with investors hoping it will help revive its $17 trillion economy, placing bets that have lifted Chinese stocks and its yuan currency to multi-month highs.
“Markets widely expect pent-up demand to pick up once China’s economy reopens,” Nomura analysts said in a note.
They warned that a hangover from falling household wealth and rising youth unemployment, years of lockdowns and travel bans, could temper the rebound.
Although international flights are in short supply, Chinese tourists, a much-missed mainstay of the world’s retail and travel industries, are starting to travel again.
Mall targets from Macau to Bangkok Seduce them With red lantern displays and special dances to mark the Year of the Rabbit – and steep discounts.
Chinese spending on travel grew to $255 billion in 2019, accounting for 33% of spending in the global luxury personal goods market, according to Bain Consultancy estimates.
Reporting by Liz Lee, Alessandro Diviggiano, Bernard Orr and Beijing Newsroom; Written by John Geddy; Edited by Robert Birsel
Our values: Thomson Reuters Trust Policy.
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