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China’s travel for the Lunar New Year could help the economy recover from the COVID crunch.

Tuesday, workers from China’s biggest cities crowded train stations as the country’s mass migration for the Lunar New Year holidays kicked into high gear. This is a sign that the economy is starting to get better, as officials confirmed a historic drop in economic activity due to COVID-19 curbs.

The world’s second-largest economy slowed down a lot in the fourth quarter, according to data released on Tuesday. After three years of COVID restrictions and lockdowns, this caused growth in 2022 to be one of the worst in nearly 50 years.


After some of the world’s strictest COVID restrictions were eased, people could travel in large groups for the Lunar New Year for the first time in almost three years. If hundreds of thousands of people a day spend more money on their way back to China’s countryside, the economy will benefit.

Related: China’s reopening and hopes for slower US rate hikes caused the dollar to fall.

Many analysts say that the economy will slowly get back to normal as the effects of COVID wear off. However, some see the Lunar New Year as a welcome early boost to spending.

“Peak infections in major cities ended in January, and with the Spring Festival coming up, tourism is back, and there are clear signs of a recovery in consumption,” said Nie Wen, an economist at the investment firm Hwabao Trust who works in Shanghai.

But even though workers are leaving, health experts worry that the COVID outbreak will spread and get worse, leaving the elderly in rural villages especially at risk.

Even though Chinese officials confirmed a huge rise in deaths on Saturday when they said that nearly 60,000 people with COVID had died in hospitals between Dec. 8 and Jan. 12, officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) want a more comprehensive look at death rates.


Last week, the WHO warned that China was not telling the truth about how many people were dying from the virus. The WHO was happy to hear about Saturday’s announcement.

In particular, the UN 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.

“This is especially important during times of surges when the health system is under a lot of pressure,” the statement said on Monday.

After WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke with Ma Xiaowei, director of China’s National Health Commission, over the weekend, the WHO said it would keep working with China to give advice and help. However, it had not yet set up another formal meeting with Chinese officials.

There is danger, but there is hope.

The Ministry of Transport predicts that there will be a total of 2.1 billion passenger trips across the country between January 7 and February 15. This is because many Chinese city dwellers are taking advantage of their first chance to go home for the Lunar New Year to see family since the pandemic started.


Early in December, Chinese officials got rid of Beijing’s “zero COVID” policy, which had been pushed by the leader of the ruling Communist Party, Xi Jinping. This means that the virus can now spread freely among China’s 1.4 billion people.

These strict policies have hurt China’s demographic outlook even more. China’s population is now falling for the first time in 60 years, according to data released by the government on Tuesday. This is the start of a historic decline.

State media said that on Tuesday alone, about 390,000 people were expected to leave from Shanghai train stations for the Spring Festival holiday. Before COVID, this was thought to be the world’s largest annual mass migration.

Even though there were risks, some travellers in Shanghai, China’s largest city, said they were optimistic.

“The virus doesn’t worry me.” “Since we are young, our immune systems are fine.” Zhou Ning, a 37-year-old migrant worker, told Reuters this as he was getting ready to go back to his home in Bazhong, which is in the northeastern province of Sichuan.

Related: European stock futures go up because China’s opening and Germany’s industrial output help.

“In my hometown, a lot of people have tested positive, but that doesn’t worry me.”

Feng Hongwei, a 21-year-old migrant worker, told his fellow workers on a train leaving Shanghai that he was “so happy, so excited” to be going home to Puyang, Henan. “It’s been two years since I’ve seen my parents.”

Industry data released by Shanghai Securities News on Monday showed that between January 7 and 13, there were more than 70,000 flights all over China. This is because of the holidays. That’s more than 80% of what it was like before the pandemic.

International flights are also getting better. Emirates Airlines announced on Monday that it would start flying from its hub in Dubai to Shanghai again this week. From March on, it will fly to Shanghai and Beijing every day.


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