Millions of Chinese workers are on the move ahead of the Friday travel peak

  • Now half a million people cross China’s borders a day
  • China open to the world – head of state tells World Economic Forum
  • Lunar New Year travel welcomed, consumption key to economy
  • Some relatives are grieving due to covid
  • Medical personnel rush to vaccinate the elderly

BEIJING, Jan 18 (Reuters) – Millions of urban workers moved across China on Wednesday ahead of the expected Friday peak of its Lunar New Year mass migration, as China’s leaders watched its Covid-hit economy move.

As authorities last month ended three years of some of the world’s tightest COVID-19 restrictions, workers flocked to train stations and airports to return to small towns and rural homes, fueling fears of a widespread virus outbreak.

Economists and analysts are looking to the holiday season, known as the Spring Festival, for a glimmer of a recovery in consumption across the world’s second-largest economy after new GDP data on Tuesday confirmed a sharp economic slowdown in China.

Any prolonged slowdown will worsen the policy challenges facing President Xi Jinping, who must appease a desperate younger generation who took to the streets in historic protests against the “zero-Covid” policy in November.

While some analysts expect the recovery to be slow, China’s Vice Premier Liu He announced at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on Tuesday that China is opening up to the world after three years of pandemic isolation.

An average of half a million people a day have moved into or out of China since the opening of China’s borders on January 8, officials of the National Immigration Administration said.

But as workers flood out of megacities such as Shanghai, as officials say the virus has peaked, many are moving to towns and villages where unvaccinated elderly people are still not exposed to COVID and health care systems are limited.

For some, a happy income

As the spread of Covid intensified, some put the virus out of their minds as they made their way to the departure gates.

Commuters streamed through train stations and subways in Beijing and Shanghai, many packing food and gifts in large wheeled suitcases and boxes.

“I’m a little worried (about the COVID-19 pandemic),” said migrant worker Jiang Zhiguang, waiting in the crowd at Shanghai Hongqiao train station.

“It doesn’t matter now. It doesn’t matter if you get infected now. You will only be sick for two days,” Jiang, 30, told Reuters.

Others return to mourn their dead relatives. For some of them, that grief is mixed with anger at what they say was a lack of preparation to protect vulnerable seniors before authorities lifted COVID restrictions in early December. read more

The infection rate in the southern city of Guangzhou, the capital of China’s most populous province, has now passed 85%, local health officials announced on Wednesday.

In isolated areas far from rapid urban outbreaks, state medical workers have been going door-to-door in some outlying villages this week to vaccinate the elderly, in what the official Xinhua news agency described Tuesday as a “last mile” effort.

Clinics in rural villages and towns are now equipped with oxygenators, and medical vehicles have also been dispatched to dangerous areas.

State media reported that although authorities confirmed a huge increase in deaths on Saturday – announcing that nearly 60,000 people had died in hospitals from Covid-19 between December 8 and January 12 – Heath officials were not yet ready to provide the World Health Organization (WHO). More data it is now looking for.

In particular, the UN The agency wants information on so-called excess mortality — the number of all deaths outside the norm during a crisis, the WHO said in a statement to Reuters on Tuesday.

The Global Times, a nationalist tabloid published by the official People’s Daily, quoted Chinese experts as saying that the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is already tracking such data, but it will take time for it to be published.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that doctors in both public and private hospitals are actively discouraged from attributing death to COVID.

Bernard Orr’s reporting on Beijing and Beijing and Shanghai newsrooms; Additional reporting by Xihao Jiang in Shanghai; Written by Greg Dorod; Editing by Michael Perry

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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