People take pictures of fireworks on New Year’s Eve in Chongqing, China, January 21, 2023.
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China ushered in the Lunar New Year on Sunday, with Chinese people praying for good health after three years of pandemic stress and economic hardship, with officials reporting nearly 13,000 deaths from the virus between Jan. 13 and 19 .
A line of about a kilometer (half a mile) formed outside Beijing’s iconic Lama Temple, which was closed several times before Covid-19 restrictions ended in early December, as thousands of people waited their turn to pray for loved ones .
One Beijing resident said she hoped the Year of the Rabbit “brings health to everyone”.
“I think this wave of the pandemic is over,” said the 57-year-old woman, who gave only her last name, Fang. “I didn’t have the virus, but my husband and everyone in my family did. I still think it’s important to protect yourself.”
Earlier, officials reported that nearly 13,000 people died of COVID-19 in hospitals between Jan. 13 and 19, after nearly 60,000 died in the month or so before that. Chinese health experts say the wave of infections across the country has reached its peak.
The latest death toll from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention came amid doubts about Beijing’s data transparency and remains very low by global standards.
On Dec. 7, China made an abrupt policy u-turn, abandoning the world’s strictest Covid controls and mass testing regime, followed by historic protests against the restrictions that overwhelmed hospitals and funeral homes.
The death toll reported by Chinese authorities does not include those who died at home, and some doctors say they are discouraged from putting Covid on death certificates.
On Jan. 14, China reported nearly 60,000 COVID-19-related deaths in hospitals between Dec. 8 and Jan. 12, a sharp jump from the more than 5,000 previously reported for the entire duration of the pandemic. Increase.
Spending by funeral homes on items ranging from body bags to cremation ovens has increased in many provinces, documents show, in one of several signs of the deadly impact of the coronavirus pandemic in China.
Some health experts expect more than 1 million people in China to die from the disease this year, with U.K.-based health data company Airfinity predicting the death toll could hit 36,000 a day this week.
As millions of migrant workers return to their hometowns for the New Year, health experts are particularly concerned about those living in China’s vast countryside, where medical facilities are poor compared with wealthy coastal areas.
From Jan. 7 to 21, the first 15 days of the 40-day Lunar New Year travel peak, rail passenger traffic is estimated to be about 110 million, a year-on-year increase of 28 percent, People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China, reported.
A total of 26.23 million trips by rail, road, ship and plane were made on New Year’s Eve, half the pre-pandemic level but up 50.8 percent from last year, according to the official CCTV report.
Visitors pose for photos at Shanghai Disney Resort, which kicked off a month-long celebration from Jan. 13 to Feb. 10 to mark the upcoming Chinese New Year.
China News Service | China News Service | Getty Images
Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Saturday that large-scale movement of people during the holidays may spread the pandemic and increase infections in some areas, but a second wave of Covid-19 is unlikely in the short term. Weibo social media platform.
With 80 percent of the population already infected, the chances of a sharp rebound in China’s coronavirus outbreak in the next two to three months are slim, Wu said.
Some Chinese also booked trips abroad after China reopened its borders on Jan. 8. Travel hotspots in Asia have been preparing for the return of Chinese tourists, who spent $255 billion a year globally before the pandemic.
“We haven’t left China for three years because of the pandemic,” said Kiki Hu, a 28-year-old tourist and business owner, in Krabi on Thailand’s southwest coast. “I’m very happy and excited now that we can leave and come here for the holidays”.