China’s COVID surge cast a shadow over Lunar New Year travel rush, but there are signs of hope

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Tokyo — Celebrations are underway everywhere in the world this week as Asians mark the Lunar New 12 months. It is at all times essentially the most festive time of the yr in China, however that is very true this yr. After Beijing suddenly dropped just about all of its draconian COVID-19 restrictions for the primary time since 2020, hundreds of thousands of individuals headed house to their cities and villages, taking full benefit of their new-found freedom.

However the huge vacation migration got here onerous on the heels of a surge in coronavirus cases across China. Public well being officers warned the travellers would possibly carry the virus into distant areas and precipitate one other killer wave of infections. 

In his New 12 months video deal with, President Xi Jinping admitted that China’s most up-to-date COVID surge had been fierce and quick, and it was no understatement. 


China says around 60,000 people have died of COVID since early December

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Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist on the China Heart for Illness Management and Prevention estimated that 80% of China’s inhabitants — a inhabitants of greater than 1.4 billion folks, 4 occasions that of the USA — has now been contaminated with the virus. Most of these infections have come simply for the reason that begin of December.

Chinese language well being officers have confirmed solely about 80,000 deaths from COVID-19, however Western analysts consider that is a wild understatement of the actual influence.

Rasmus Bech Hansen, CEO of the well being analytics firm Airfinity, informed CBS Information the variety of deaths from COVID-19 in China was anticipated to peak inside the subsequent week or so, “and it will reach the 1-million mark. So, 1 million total deaths at the end of this month.”

The true determine could by no means grow to be clear, particularly as Chinese language docs have been beneath strain to not record COVID as a trigger on loss of life certificates.

China Lunar New Year
A girl holds up a rabbit-shaped cotton sweet as she wades by means of a crowd at a temple honest at Yuanmingyuan Backyard, in the course of the second day of Lunar New 12 months celebrations in Beijing, China, January 23, 2023.

Andy Wong/AP


With that backdrop, hundreds of thousands of Chinese language metropolis dwellers took to trains, planes and cars over the past week to go again to go to household throughout the big nation for the Lunar New 12 months.

The priority was that the urbanites may deliver the virus again with them, into locations the place persons are usually less-well vaccinated and populations are sometimes older, probably setting off one other huge wave of infections.

CBS Information visited the provincial metropolis of Zhaotong, the place we shot video covertly as COVID-19 remains to be a delicate topic for authorities.

We discovered that the virus had arrived a while in the past. One lady informed us her mom had lately examined optimistic, and a person mentioned it appeared that just about everybody on the town — 80% by his personal estimation — had been contaminated.

It does seem that, because the nation’s leaders have mentioned, China’s COVID-19 outbreak has lastly peaked and is beginning to decline. 

If that is true, and the economic system begins selecting up, the New 12 months of the Rabbit can be off to an auspicious begin.

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