- COVID wave peak lasting 2-3 months observed: epidemiologist
- Elderly in rural areas particularly at risk
- The mobility indicators of people increase, but have not yet fully recovered
- A case of the XBB subvariant discovered in China
BEIJING, Jan 13 (Reuters) – The peak of the wave of COVID-19 in China is expected to last two to three months, soon spreading across the vast countryside where medical resources are relatively scarce, a top Chinese epidemiologist has said.
Infections are expected to rise in rural areas as hundreds of millions travel to their home cities for the Lunar New Year holidays, which officially start on January 1. 21 known before the pandemic as the largest annual migration of people in the world.
China last month abruptly abandoned the strict anti-virus regime of mass lockdowns that spurred historic protests across the country in late November and finally reopened its borders last Sunday.
The abrupt lifting of restrictions has unleashed the virus on China’s 1.4 billion people, more than a third of whom live in regions where infections have already passed their peak, according to state media.
But the worst of the outbreak was not over yet, warned Zeng Guang, a former chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, according to a report in local news outlet Caixin on Thursday.
“Our priority focus has been on big cities. It is time to focus on rural areas,” Zeng said.
He said large numbers of people in the countryside, where medical facilities are relatively poor, are being left behind, including the elderly, sick and disabled.
The World Health Organization also warned this week about the risks arising from holiday travel.
The UN agency said China was grossly undercounting COVID deaths, though it is now providing more information on its outbreak.
“Since the outbreak of the epidemic, China has shared relevant information and data with the international community in an open, transparent and responsible manner,” Foreign Ministry official Wu Xi told reporters.
Chinese virologists said on Friday they had discovered an infection with Omicron’s XBB.1.5 subvariant, which WHO scientists described as the most transmissible subvariant so far after its rapid spread in the United States in December. There is still no evidence that it is more serious.
Health authorities have been reporting five or fewer deaths a day for the past month, numbers that are not consistent with the long lines at home funerals and body bags seen pouring out of overcrowded hospitals.
China has not reported data on COVID deaths since Monday. Officials said in December that they planned monthly, rather than daily, updates going forward.
Although international health experts have predicted at least 1 million COVID-related deaths this year, China has reported just over 5,000 since the pandemic began, one of the lowest death rates in the world.
Concerns about data transparency were among the factors that led more than a dozen countries to require pre-departure COVID tests for travelers arriving from China.
Beijing, which had closed its borders with the rest of the world for three years and still requires all visitors to be tested before their trip, opposes sidewalks.
Wu said the accusations by individual countries were “unreasonable, unscientific and unfounded.”
Tensions rose this week with South Korea and Japan, and China retaliated by suspending short-term visas for its citizens. The two countries are also limiting flights, testing travelers from China upon arrival and quarantining those who are positive.
Parts of China were returning to normal life.
In the larger cities in particular, residents are more and more in motionThis points to a gradual, albeit so far slow, recovery in consumption and economic activity.
An immigration official said on Friday that an average of 490,000 daily trips have been made in and out of China since it reopened on January 1. 8, just 26% of pre-pandemic levels.
Singapore-based Chu Wenhong was among those who finally obtained together with his parents for the first time in three years.
“They both contracted COVID and are quite old. In fact, I feel very lucky, since it was not too serious for them, but their health is not very good, ”she said.
Although the reopening of China has occurred an impulse to financial assets globally, policymakers around the world are concerned that it could revive inflationary pressures.
However, on December Commercial data published on Friday gave reason to be cautious about the pace of China’s recovery.
Jin Chaofeng, whose company exports rattan outdoor furniture, said it has no plans to expand or hire by 2023.
“With the lifting of the COVID restrictions, domestic demand is expected to improve, but not exports,” he said.
Data next week is expected to show China’s economy grew 2.8% in 2022, the second slowest since 1976, the final year of Mao Zedong’s decade-long Cultural Revolution, according to a survey. from Reuters.
Some analysts say last year’s lockdowns will leave permanent scars on China, even worsening its already black demographic outlook.
Growth is then forecast to pick up to 4.9% this year, still well below the pre-pandemic trend.
Additional reporting from the Beijing and Shanghai newsrooms; Written by Marius Zaharia; Edited by Raju Gopalakrishnan
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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