Millions of Chinese workers are on the move before Friday, when most people travel.
Millions of urban workers in China were on the move on Wednesday, a few days before the peak of the Lunar New Year mass migration, which is expected to happen on Friday. This was done so that China’s leaders could get the economy, which has been hurt by COVID, moving again.
When three years of some of the world’s strictest COVID-19 restrictions were lifted last month, workers flocked to train stations and airports to get to smaller towns and rural homes. This made people worry that the virus was spreading.
Economists and analysts are keeping a close eye on the Spring Festival holiday season to see if there are any signs of a rebound in consumption in the world’s second-largest economy. This comes after new GDP data on Tuesday showed that China’s economy is slowing sharply.
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Any slowdown that lasts for a long time could make President Xi Jinping’s policy problems worse. He has to appease a pessimistic younger generation that took to the streets in November to protest the “zero-COVID” policy he was promoting at the time.
Even though some experts think the recovery will be slow, China’s Vice Premier Liu He told the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on Tuesday that China is now open to the rest of the world after being closed off for three years because of the pandemic.
Since China’s borders opened on January 8, about half a million people have moved in or out of the country every day, according to the National Immigration Administration. This is according to state media. When the holiday starts on Saturday, that number is expected to rise to 600,000 a day.
But as workers leave megacities like Shanghai, where the virus is said to be at its worst, many are heading to towns and villages where older people who haven’t been vaccinated haven’t been exposed to COVID yet and where health care systems aren’t as well-equipped.
SOME JOYOUS RETURNS
As the COVID outbreak got worse, some people tried to forget about the virus as they went to the exit gates.
In Beijing and Shanghai, there was a lot of activity in the subways and train stations. Many people were carrying large suitcases on wheels and boxes full of food and gifts.
“I used to be a little worried (about the COVID-19 epidemic),” said migrant worker Jiang Zhiguang, who was waiting with the crowds at Shanghai’s Hongqiao Railway Station.
“No longer does it make a difference.” Now, getting sick is no longer a big deal. “You’ll only feel bad for two days,” Jiang, who is 30 years old, told Reuters.
Some people will go back to grieve for family members who have died. For some of these people, their grief is mixed with anger over what they say was a lack of planning to protect elderly people who were weak before the COVID restrictions were lifted in early December.
On Wednesday, local health officials said that the rate of infection in Guangzhou, the capital of China’s most populous province and a city in the south, has gone over 85%.
This week, state medical workers are going door-to-door in some remote villages to vaccinate the elderly, far from the fast-moving outbreaks in cities. The official Xinhua news agency called this effort the “last mile” on Tuesday.
Clinics in small towns and rural villages are now getting oxygenators, and medical vehicles have been sent to places that are thought to be dangerous.
Officials announced on Saturday that nearly 60,000 people with COVID had died in hospitals between December 8 and January 12. State media said that health officials were not yet ready to give the World Health Organization (WHO) the extra information it is now looking for.
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In particular, the U.N. agency wants to know about “excess mortality,” which is the number of deaths that are higher than usual during a crisis, the WHO told Reuters in a statement on Tuesday.
Chinese experts were quoted in the tabloid Global Times as saying that the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention was already keeping track of this kind of information, but it would take some time before it could be made public.
Reuters reported on Tuesday that doctors in both public and private hospitals were being told not to blame deaths on COVID.