- Peak of Covid wave seen to last 2-3 months – epidemiologist
- Elderly people in rural areas are particularly vulnerable
- The human mobility index is ticking up, but has yet to fully recover
BEIJING, Jan 13 (Reuters) – The peak of China’s Covid-19 wave is expected to last two to three months and will soon swell in vast rural areas where medical resources are relatively scarce, a top Chinese epidemiologist said.
Infections are expected to emerge in rural areas as millions travel to their hometowns for the Lunar New Year holiday, which officially begins on Jan. 21, which before the pandemic was known as the world’s largest annual migration.
China last month abruptly abandoned the strict anti-virus regime of the mass lockdown that sparked historic protests across the country in late November and finally reopened its borders this past Sunday.
The sudden dismantling of restrictions has allowed the virus to spread among China’s 1.4 billion people, more than a third of whom live in areas where infections are already at their peak, according to state media.
But the worst of the outbreak is not yet over, warned Zeng Guang, former chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, according to a report published Thursday in local media outlet Caixin.
“Our priority focus has been on big cities. Now is the time to focus on rural areas,” Zeng was quoted as saying.
He said that in rural areas where medical facilities are relatively poor, a large number of people, including the elderly, sick and disabled, are lagging behind.
Authorities said they are trying to improve the supply of antivirals across the country. Merck & Co’s (MRK.N) Malnupirvir was Made available in China From Friday.
The World Health Organization this week also warned of risks arising from holiday travel.
The UN agency says China is grossly under-reporting deaths from Covid, although it is now providing more data on its outbreak.
“Since the outbreak of the epidemic, China has openly, transparently and responsibly shared relevant information and data with the international community,” Foreign Ministry official Wu Xi told reporters.
Health authorities have been reporting five or fewer deaths a day for the past month, a number disproportionate to the long lines seen at funeral homes and body bags pouring out of crowded hospitals.
China has not reported any Covid deaths since Monday. Officials said in December that they plan to issue monthly instead of daily updates, moving forward.
While international health experts predict at least 1 million Covid-related deaths this year, China has reported just over 5,000 since the pandemic began, one of the world’s lowest death rates.
Concerns about data transparency were among the factors that prompted more than a dozen countries to demand pre-departure Covid testing from travelers arriving from China.
Beijing, which closed its borders to the rest of the world for three years and still demands that all visitors be screened before they travel, objects to the ban.
Wu said the accusations by individual countries were “totally absurd, unscientific and baseless.”
As tensions rose with South Korea and Japan this week, China retaliated by suspending short-term visas for their citizens. The two countries are restricting flights, testing passengers from China and isolating positive ones.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said Friday that Tokyo would continue to demand transparency, calling Beijing’s retaliation extremely “regrettable”.
Some parts of China are returning to normal life.
Especially the residents of big cities increasingly ongoingOne indicates a gradual, though still slow, substitution in consumption and economic activity.
An immigration official said on Friday that there had been an average of 490,000 daily trips in and out of China since it reopened on January 8, just 26% of pre-pandemic levels.
Singapore-based Chu Wenhong was among those who finally got it united With their parents for the first time in three years.
“They both got Covid, and are quite old. I actually feel quite lucky, because it was not too serious for them, but their health is not very good,” he said.
Although China has reopened to encourage As for global financial assets, global policymakers are concerned that this could reignite inflationary pressures.
But December Trade date Friday’s release provided reason to be cautious about the pace of China’s recovery.
Jin Chaofeng, whose company exports outdoor rattan furniture, said he has no expansion or hiring plans for 2023.
“With the lifting of COVID restrictions, domestic demand is expected to improve but exports will not,” he said.
According to a Reuters poll, data next week will show China’s economy growing just 2.8% in 2022, the second-slowest since 1976, the final year of Mao Zedong’s decade-long Cultural Revolution.
Some analysts say last year’s lockdowns will leave a lasting scar on China, which has worsened The vision of an already dark population.
Growth then rebounded to 4.9% this year, still well below pre-pandemic trends.
Additional reporting by Beijing and Shanghai newsrooms; Written by Marius Zaharia; Edited by Raju Gopalakrishnan
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