Chinese pray for health in Lunar New Year as Covid death toll rises

People take pictures of fireworks on Chinese New Year’s Eve in Chongqing, China January 21, 2023.

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China on Sunday ushered in the Lunar New Year by praying for the health of its people after three years of strain and financial hardship under the pandemic, as authorities reported nearly 13,000 new deaths due to the virus between January 13 and 19. gave information.

Queues stretched for nearly a kilometer (half a mile) outside the iconic Lama Temple in Beijing, which was repeatedly closed before Covid-19 restrictions ended in early December, with thousands of people praying for their loved ones. Was waiting for his turn to do it.

A Beijing resident said she wished the Year of the Rabbit would bring “health for all”.

“I think this wave of the epidemic has gone,” said the 57-year-old, who gave only his last name, Feng. “I didn’t get the virus, but my husband and everyone in my family did. I still think it’s important to protect yourself.”

Earlier, officials reported nearly 13,000 Covid-related deaths in hospitals between January 13 and 19, up from nearly 60,000 in the month before. Chinese health experts say the wave of infections across the country has already peaked.

The update on the death toll from China’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention comes amid doubts over Beijing’s data transparency and remains extremely low by global standards.

Hospitals and funeral homes were overwhelmed after China abandoned the world’s strictest regime of Covid controls and mass testing on December 7 in a sudden policy U-turn that followed historic protests against the restrictions.

The number of deaths reported by Chinese officials does not include those who died at home, and some doctors have said they are discouraged from putting COVID on death certificates.

China reported on 14 January nearly 60,000 Covid-related deaths in hospitals between 8 December and 12 January, which is much higher than the more than 5,000 deaths previously recorded over the entire pandemic period.

Documents show funeral homes have soared in several provinces on items ranging from body bags to cremation urns, one of many signs of the deadly impact of Covid in China.

Some health experts expect more than one million people to die from the disease in China this year, with British health data firm Airfinity forecasting as many as 36,000 a day could die this week.

As millions of migrant workers return home for Lunar New Year celebrations, health experts are particularly concerned about those living in China’s vast rural areas, where medical facilities are poor compared to prosperous coastal areas.

Nearly 110 million rail passenger trips are expected during January 7-21, the first 15 days of the 40-day Lunar New Year travel rush, a 28% year-on-year increase, the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, said. gave information.

A total of 26.23 million trips were made on Lunar New Year’s Eve via railways, highways, ships and airplanes, half the pre-pandemic level but up 50.8% from last year, state-run CCTV told.

Tourists pose for a photo at Shanghai Disney Resort during the month of festivities that runs from January 13 to February 10 to celebrate the upcoming Chinese New Year.

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Large-scale movement of people during the holiday period may spread the epidemic, increasing infections in some areas, but a second Covid wave is unlikely in the near term, said Wu Zunyao, chief epidemiologist at the China Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Saturday on the Weibo social media platform.

Wu said there is little chance of a resurgence of Covid in China in the next two or three months as 80% of people have been infected.

After China reopened its borders on 8 January, some Chinese booked travel abroad as well. Asia’s tourist destinations are bracing for the return of Chinese tourists, who spent $255 billion globally before the pandemic.

“Because of the pandemic, we haven’t been out of China for three years,” said Kiki Hu, a 28-year-old tourist and business owner in Krabi on Thailand’s southwest coast. “Now that we can take a break from here and come here, I feel very happy and emotional.”

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