It’s the first new year since the communist government in Beijing lifted strict measures against the crown. Millions of families can gather in person this weekend for the first time in three years. Officials were expecting nearly two billion passenger trips during the 40-day travel season, which is about 70% of travel volume compared to the pre-pandemic period.
Despite the celebratory mood in the country, the Chinese New Year is once again overshadowed by the pandemic. While the coronavirus situation in major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai has returned to normal after a rapid wave of infections in December, the stress test in inland provinces is yet to come.
By comparison, the healthcare system there is only rudimentarily developed, and hospitals with modern equipment are often several hours away by car. At the same time, rural areas are mainly inhabited by older population groups who have so far only had inadequate vaccine protection in China: according to Chinese state media, a quarter of people over 60 have yet to receive a booster.
London-based research institute Airfinity expects the current corona wave could peak next week, with up to 36,000 deaths a day. Such predictions are in stark contrast to official reports from Chinese state media, which deliberately downplay the dramatic situation.
The authorities also launched a censorship campaign to combat “dark emotions” and “rumors” about the Corona situation on social media. No negative headlines should dampen the Chinese’s festive mood as they welcome the Year of the Rabbit.