Streets abandoned in Chinese cities as new COVID wave approaches

Streets abandoned in Chinese cities as new COVID wave approaches
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  • People take steps to protect themselves after sidewalks are removed
  • Senior official predicts three waves this winter
  • Lunar New Year in January to further increase the spread

BEIJING, December 18 (Reuters) – Streets in China’s major cities were eerily quiet on Sunday as people stayed at home to avoid the rise in COVID-19 cases hitting city centers from north to south.

China is in the first of three waves of COVID cases expected this winter, according to the country’s chief epidemiologist, Wu Zunyou. More waves will come as people continue the tradition of returning home en masse for the Lunar New Year holiday next month, he said.

China has not reported any COVID deaths since 1 December. 7, when it abruptly ended most restrictions, key to a zero-COVID tolerance policy, following unprecedented public protests. The strategy was advocated by President Xi Jinping.

As part of the easing of zero-COVID borders, the end of mass testing for the virus casts doubt on whether official case numbers will capture the full scale of the outbreak. China reported approximately 2,097 new symptomatic COVID infections on 1 December. 17.

In Beijing, the spread of the highly infectious Omicron variant has already hit services, from catering to package delivery. Funerals and crematoriums across the city of 22 million don’t fight To meet demand while staffing shortages as workers and drivers are sick.

Beijing’s largest funeral parlor in Babaoshan, which is also known for the funerals of high-ranking Chinese officials and leaders, saw several funerals enter every minute on Sunday, as the parking space for private vehicles was also full.

“It is difficult to arrange a hearing at the moment, so many relatives are transporting the body in their own vehicles,” said one employee on condition of anonymity.

Smoke rose from crematoriums where groups of people gathered to collect the ashes of the deceased. It was not immediately clear to what extent the increase in COVID-related deaths was responsible.

Social media posts showed that the subways in the city of Xian in northwest China were also empty, while there was no trace of the usual hustle and bustle as the country entered the new year in Shanghai, the commercial center of the country.

“There’s no festive mood,” said a resident, who gave her name as Alice.

In Chengdu, the streets were empty, but a resident named Zhang said meal delivery times had improved after wards began to adjust to the recent increase in cases.

However, he said that it is still difficult to obtain antigen test kits and explained that he was told that the kits he had recently ordered were sent to hospitals.


In Shanghai, officials said schools must move most classrooms online from Monday, and in nearby Hangzhou, most school classes are encouraged to finish the winter term early.

The education bureau said that in Guangzhou, those who are already teaching online classes and preschoolers should not be prepared for back-to-school.

Wu, chief epidemiologist of the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a speech at a conference in Beijing on Saturday that the current outbreak will peak this winter and continue in three waves for about three months, according to a state media outlet.

The first wave will run largely in cities from mid-December to mid-January, while the second wave will begin from late January to mid-February next year, triggered by the movement of people ahead of the week-long New Year holiday.

China will celebrate the Lunar New Year from January 1. 21. Vacation normally sees hundreds of millions of people travel to their homes to spend time with their family.

Wu said a third wave of cases will continue from late February to mid-March as people return to work after the holidays.

In eastern Zhejiang province, home to many high-tech companies and industries, the first wave is expected to peak in mid-January, but it could be earlier, health officials said at a press briefing on Sunday.

“This period coincides with the Lunar New Year, and population movement will accelerate the spread of the epidemic,” said Chen Zhong, deputy director of the provincial epidemic control task force.

A US-based research institute said this week the country could see it. case explosion and more than a million people in China could die from COVID in 2023.

Wu said that severe cases have decreased compared to past years and that vaccination provides a certain degree of protection. While recommending booster vaccines for the general public, he said the vulnerable should be protected.

As China launches its first COVID vaccines in 2021, vaccination rates According to official figures, there has been little change among people aged 60 and over since the summer.

Only 66.4% of people over the age of 80 completed a full course of vaccination, the official news agency Xinhua reported.

Prepared by Siyi Liu, Dominique Patton, Ryan Woo, Eduardo Baptista and Brenda Goh; Fiction by Kenneth Maxwell and Philippa Fletcher

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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