BEIJING, Jan 22 (Reuters) – China ushered in the Lunar New Year on Sunday, with Chinese people praying for good health after three years of stress and economic hardship brought on by the pandemic, officials said. January 13th to 19th.
A queue 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 tens of thousands of people waited their turn 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 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.
Hospitals and funeral homes have been overwhelmed since China made an abrupt policy u-turn on Dec. 7, abandoning some of the world’s strictest COVID controls and mass testing regime, following historic protests against restrictions.
The death toll reported by Chinese authorities does not include those who died at home, and some doctors say they are discouraging the inclusion of COVID on death certificates.
On Jan. 14, China reported nearly 60,000 COVID-related deaths in hospitals between Dec. 8 and Jan. 12, a sharp increase from the more than 5,000 previously reported for the entire duration of the pandemic.
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 COVID’s deadly impact in China.
Some health experts expect more than 1 million people in China to die from the disease this year, with British health data company Airfinity predicting that COVID deaths 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.
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% of the population already infected, there is little chance of a significant COVID rebound in China in the next two to three months, Wu said.
Additional reporting by Beijing Newsroom; By Marius Zaharia Edited by Shri Navaratnam
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