COVID peak in China will last 2-3 months, then hit rural areas – expert

COVID peak in China will last 2-3 months, then hit rural areas - expert
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  • COVID wave peak seen 2-3 months – epidemiologist
  • The elderly in rural areas are particularly at risk
  • People’s mobility indicators are rising, but not yet fully recovered
  • A case of XBB sub-variant discovered in China

BEIJING, Jan 13 (Reuters) – The peak of the COVID-19 wave in China is expected to last two to three months and will soon grow in the vast countryside where medical resources are relatively scarce, a senior Chinese epidemiologist said.

Infections are expected to rise in rural areas as hundreds of millions of people travel to their hometowns for the Lunar New Year holiday, which officially begins on January 1. 21 was known as the world’s largest annual human migration before the pandemic.

Last month, China abruptly abandoned its regime of mass lockdown against the virus that fueled historic protests across the country in late November, and finally reopened its borders last Sunday.

According to state media, the abrupt lifting of restrictions has unleashed the virus on the 1.4 billion people living in regions where more than a third of China’s infections have already peaked.

But Zeng Guang, the former chief epidemiologist of the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, warned that the worst of the epidemic is not over yet, local media outlet Caixin reported on Thursday.

“Our primary focus has been on big cities. It’s time to focus on rural areas,” Zeng said.

He said large numbers of people, including the elderly, the sick and the disabled, are left behind in rural areas where healthcare facilities are relatively poor.

The World Health Organization also warned this week about the risks from holiday travel.

The UN agency said that while China is currently providing more information on its outbreak, it is largely underreporting deaths from COVID.

“Since the outbreak of the epidemic, China has shared relevant information and data with the international community in an open, transparent and responsible manner,” foreign ministry official Wu Xi told reporters.

Chinese virologists said on Friday they had discovered an infection with the Omicron subvariant XBB. There is no evidence yet that it is further north.

Health officials have reported five or fewer deaths a day over the past month, which is inconsistent with the long queues at funeral homes and body bags from overcrowded hospitals.

China has not reported COVID death data since Monday. Officials said in December they plan ahead with monthly rather than daily updates.

While international health experts have estimated at least 1 million COVID-related deaths this year, China has reported just over 5,000, one of the lowest deaths in the world since the pandemic began.


Concerns over data transparency were among the factors that prompted more than a dozen countries to request pre-flight COVID tests from travelers from China.

Beijing, which has closed its borders from the rest of the world for three years and still demands that all visitors be tested before travel, is opposing the pavements.

Wu said the accusations by individual countries were “unreasonable, unscientific and unfounded”.

Tensions with South Korea and Japan escalated this week as China retaliated by suspending short-stay visas for its citizens. The two countries also limit flights, test travelers from China on arrival, and quarantine those who are positive.

Some parts of China were returning to normal life.

Especially those who live in big cities more and more on the moveIt points to a gradual, albeit slow, recovery in consumption and economic activity so far.

An immigration official said on Friday that an average of 490,000 trips a day have been made to China since it reopened on Jan. 8, only 26% of pre-pandemic levels.

Singapore-based Chu Wenhong was among the winners in the end. reunite For the first time in three years with her parents.

“They both have COVID and are quite old. I actually feel very lucky that it wasn’t too serious for them, but their health is not very good,” he said.


Although the reopening of China has given and support Against financial assets globally, policymakers around the world worry that this could rekindle inflationary pressures.

However, in December trade data Data released on Friday provided reasons to be cautious about the pace of China’s recovery.

Jin Chaofeng, whose company exports outdoor rattan furniture, said there are no expansion or hiring plans for 2023.

“Domestic demand is expected to improve with the lifting of COVID restrictions, but exports are not expected to improve,” he said.

Next week’s data is expected to show China’s economy growing 2.8% in 2022, the second slowest since 1976, the final year of Mao Zedong’s ten-year Cultural Revolution, according to a Reuters poll.

Some analysts say last year’s curfews will leave lasting scars, including worsening China. the already bleak demographic outlook.

Growth appears to have picked up to 4.9% later this year, still well below the pre-pandemic trend.

Additional reporting by Beijing and Shanghai news centers; Written by Marius Zaharia; Edited by Raju Gopalakrishnan

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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