- Half a million people now cross the borders of China every day
- China now open to the world – head of state told World Economic Forum
- Medical staff rush to vaccinate the elderly
BEIJING, Jan 18 (Portal) – Millions of urban workers were on the move across China on Wednesday ahead of the expected peak of mass migration to mark the Lunar New Year on Friday, as China’s leaders attempt to jump-start its COVID-stricken economy.
Unrestricted, as officials last month ended three years of some of the world’s toughest COVID-19 restrictions, workers flocked to train stations and airports for smaller towns and country homes, sparking fears of a widening virus outbreak.
Economists are studying the holiday season, known as the Spring Festival, for glimmers of recovering consumption in the world’s second-biggest economy after new GDP data on Tuesday confirmed a sharp economic slowdown in China.
While some analysts expect a slow recovery, China’s Vice Premier Liu He told the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on Tuesday that China is open to the world after three years of pandemic isolation.
Officials at the National Immigration Service said an average of half a million people a day have been brought into or out of China since the borders opened on Jan. 8, state media reported.
But while workers are pouring from megacities like Shanghai, where officials say the virus has peaked, many are moving to towns and villages where unvaccinated elderly are not yet exposed to COVID and health systems are less resourced.
LARGE ROLLER CASES, GIFT BOXES
As the COVID surge intensified, some put the virus out of their minds as they headed to departure gates.
Travelers rushed through train and subway stations in Beijing and Shanghai, many bringing large trolley suitcases and boxes full of groceries and gifts.
“I used to be a little worried (about the COVID-19 epidemic),” said migrant worker Jiang Zhiguang, who was waiting among the crowds at Hongqiao Railway Station in Shanghai.
“Now it doesn’t matter anymore. Now it’s okay if you get infected. You will only be sick for two days,” Jiang, 30, told Portal.
The infection rate in the southern city of Guangzhou, capital of China’s most populous province, has now surpassed 85 percent, local health officials said on Wednesday.
In more remote areas, state medical workers are going door-to-door to vaccinate the elderly in some remote villages this week, with the official Xinhua news agency calling the effort a “last mile” on Tuesday.
Clinics in rural villages and towns are now being equipped with oxygenators, and medical vehicles have also been dispatched to remote areas.
While authorities on Saturday confirmed a huge spike in deaths and announced that nearly 60,000 people had died in hospitals with COVID between December 8 and January 12, state media reported that health officials were not yet ready to tell the World Health Organization ( WHO) the additional data it is now looking for.
Specifically, the UN 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 Portal on Tuesday.
The Global Times, a nationalist tabloid published by the official People’s Daily, quoted Chinese experts as saying the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention is already monitoring such data but it would take time before it could be released.
Doctors in public and private hospitals have been actively discouraged from attributing deaths to COVID, Portal reported on Tuesday.
Reporting by Bernard Orr in Beijing and the Beijing and Shanghai newsrooms; Additional reporting by Xihao Jiang in Shanghai; writing by Greg Torode; Edited by Michael Perry
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