China’s first day of “chunyun” was celebrated in China on Saturday. The 40-day period of Lunar New Year travel is known pre-pandemic to be the largest annual migration. It will see a significant increase in tourists and an increase in COVID-19 infection.
This Lunar New Year public holiday (which officially begins Jan. 21) will be the first since 2020 to not have any restrictions on domestic travel.
China saw the dramatic fall of its “zeroCOVID” regime over the past month after historic protests against the policy, which included frequent testing, restricted movement, and severe damage to the world’s No.2 economic.
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Investors believe that the reopening would eventually revive a $17 billion economy that has experienced its lowest growth in more than half a century.
The sudden changes in China’s population of 1.4 billion have made it more difficult for many to catch the virus.
Friday’s statement by the Ministry of Transport stated that it anticipates more than 2Billion passengers to travel over the next 40 Days. This represents a 99.5% increase year-on-year, and will reach 70.3% of total trips in 2019.
The news generated mixed reactions online. Some people celebrated the opportunity to return home to their families and celebrate the Lunar New Year for the first-time in many years.
However, many others said that they won’t travel this holiday season due to the fear of infecting their elderly loved ones.
One commenter on Weibo said, “I dare NOT go back to my home town, for fear that I might bring the poison back.”
There are concerns that the mass migration of urban workers to their homes will lead to an increase number of infections in smaller towns and rural areas with fewer ICU beds and ventilators.
Authorities are expanding grassroots medical services and opening more rural fever clinics. They also plan to establish a “green funnel” for high-risk patients, especially those with underlying health conditions.
Mi Feng, spokesperson of the National Health Commission said Saturday that China’s rural regions are large and populous, while the per capita medical resource was relatively insufficient.
“It’s important to provide easy services, accelerate vaccinations for the elderly in rural areas, and build grassroots linesof defense.
INFECTION PEAK REACHED
Analysts are now suggesting that the current wave in infections may be over.
Gavekal Dragonomics analyst Ernan cui from Beijing stated that several online surveys had shown that rural areas are already more vulnerable to COVID infection than originally thought. A peak has been reached in most regions. Ernan Cui also said that there was no difference in the incidence between rural and urban areas.
China will reopen the border to Hong Kong on Sunday. This will also end the requirement for international travellers to go through quarantine. This effectively allows many Chinese to travel overseas for the first-time since the closure of borders three years ago. They will no longer be quarantined when they return.
Jillian Xin is a mother to three children who lives in Hong Kong. She said that she was “incredibly excited about” the border opening.
“The border opening means our children can finally see their grandparents for the very first time since the pandemic,” she stated. “Two children from our family have never had the opportunity to visit their grandpa. So we can’t wait to see them.”
China’s recent surge in cases has raised concerns internationally. Over a dozen countries have begun to demand COVID testing for travellers from China. The World Health Organisation claimed Wednesday that China’s COVID statistics do not reflect the true number of people who have died from the disease.
Chinese officials and state media defended the handling the outbreak, playing down its severity and decrying foreign travel requirements for its citizens.
People who had booked appointments for Saturday had to stand in line for 90 minutes at a centre to conduct PCR tests for travel to China.
TREATMENT TO THOSE IN THE FORE
China invested heavily in PCR testing to trace COVID-19 cases. However, now the focus shifts towards vaccines and treatment.
Shanghai, for instance, announced on Friday that the city government would stop providing residents with PCR testing for free starting January 8.
A Saturday circular by four government ministries indicated that financial resources were being reallocated to treatment. It included a plan to subsidize 60% of treatment costs up to March 31.
Sources informed Reuters, that China is in negotiations with Pfizer Inc to get a license to allow domestic drugmakers to make and distribute a generic copy of the U.S. antiviral drug Paxlovid.
Many Chinese are trying to get the drug overseas and ship it to China.
China’s CanSino Biologics Inc (61185.HK) has announced that it is now producing a COVID mRNA booster vaccine called CS-2034.
China has relied on nine domestically-developed vaccines approved for use, including inactivated vaccines, but none have been adapted to target the highly-transmissible Omicron variant and its offshoots currently in circulation.
The country’s overall vaccination rate is higher than 90%. But, the rate for adults who have received booster shots falls to 57.9% for adults and to 42.3% in people 80 years and older, according government data.
China reported three COVID-related deaths in China’s mainland on Friday. This brings the official number of virus deaths since the pandemic to 5,267. It is one of the lowest worldwide.
International experts in health say Beijing’s narrow definitions of COVID deaths do not reflect a true toll. They predict that there will be more than a million deaths.