The Year of the Rabbit is coming to China.  Fear of the spread of the virus

The Year of the Rabbit is coming to China. Fear of the spread of the virus

by Guido Santevecchi

The country is preparing to celebrate the Lunar New Year, which falls on January 22, but there are fears big movements will take the pandemic everywhere. Xi admits the difficulties

Xi Jinping appeared at a Chinese provincial hospital engaged in the fight to save Covid-19 patients. Not in person, but via video link from the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. The communist general secretary’s virtual presence among ordinary Chinese was projected onto other symbolic places: a nursing home for the elderly, a high-speed train station full of departing people, a village where people are preparing to celebrate the Lunar New Year, which falls next Sunday and after ancient rural tradition heralds spring. January 22nd marks the year of the rabbit, one of the twelve animals of the zodiac, in China. A very popular character in China: attributes such as sympathy, diplomacy and political skill are attributed to it (roughly like the president).

After Xi congratulated each other, he publicly acknowledged the difficulties and stress of coronavirus prevention and control for the first time after the grand retreat from the Covid-zero moat. He assured that the light of day is ahead, the victory of stubbornness, but warned: I’m worried about the rural areas, their relatively weak medical facilities compared to the cities, I’m worried about our peasants and more elderly People.

For days, Beijing’s epidemiologists have been observing that after the first peak of infections and hospital admissions in the metropolis, the front is shifting to the countryside, where health care is less well equipped. And the possible super-spreading event of infections is looming: the New Year’s Exodus.

Train stations and long-distance bus stations, domestic airports are full. Authorities expect two billion trips within 40 days, this holiday season is so tough for a large mass of workers. Millions and millions of Chinese are leaving the industrial cities they migrated to to return to villages and country towns to see their families after a year of work. A big hug that has been postponed since 2020, when the Wuhan epidemic broke out just before the Lunar New Year.

To describe the great New Year’s train in Chinese, we say chunyun: it means transport of spring. The term has been in use since the 1980s, when Deng Xiaoping enacted the grand opening to the market economy. Until then, travel to China was infrequent and controlled, with the masses living and working mainly in the countryside. With the reforms, millions of Chinese began to migrate to the cities to work in new factories and on construction sites. Today there are an estimated over 280 million migrant workers in China. Many only go home once a year for the Spring Festival.

2021 and 2022 the Chinese stuck with the Covid-Zero line. The sudden decision to reopen China was designed precisely to soothe social frustration and revitalize an ailing economy.

But now there are fears Chunyun will bring Covid-19 to the elderly in rural areas. Xi ordered the domestic pharmaceutical industry to step up drug production. The incomplete vaccination campaign, a victim of the Covid-Zero policy that only used lockdowns and quarantines to contain infections. And also the effectiveness of vaccines made in China, based on the inactivated virus. Those developed in the west with Messenger Rna by Moderna and Pfizer offer greater coverage.

Now Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel says there are contacts with Beijing to supply the American pharmaceutical company’s vaccine. “I want to understand how we can help the Chinese government and what their health needs are,” Bancel told Portal. Even if a cooperation agreement were found with Beijing, the administration of the doses would come after Xi feared a wave of infections in the countryside.

The latest projection from Airfinity, a UK-based institute for epidemiological analysis, claims that the peak of deaths will rise to 36,000 a day immediately after the Great Lunar New Year migration. Airfinity claims China’s casualties since December may not have been fewer than 600,000: 10 times the number of deaths the government recorded on January 12 after a long silence.

The Cyber​​Regulator has vowed to untangle the web of dark emotions caused by rumors of a holiday pandemic. The rework campaign is intensified. Censorship tries to fight the virus of controversy.

January 19, 2023 (change January 19, 2023 | 21:21)