Luggage-laden passengers flocked to railway stations and airports in China’s megacities, heading home for holidays that health experts fear could intensify a Covid-19 outbreak that has claimed thousands of lives, reports the Guardian.
After three years of strict and suffocating anti-virus controls, China in early December abruptly abandoned its zero-Covid policy, letting the virus run freely through its population of 1.4 billion.
Authorities on Saturday said nearly 60,000 people with Covid had died in hospitals between 8 December and 12 January, a huge increase from previous figures that had been criticised by the World Health Organization for not reflecting the scale and severity of the outbreak.
Even those numbers most likely excluded many people dying at home, especially in rural areas with weaker medical systems, one health expert has said. Several experts forecast more than 1 million people in China will die from the disease this year.
Peak of Covid infection
Ahead of the lunar new year holidays, also known as the spring festival, which officially starts on 21 January, state media has been filled with stories of rural hospitals and clinics bolstering their supplies of drugs and equipment.
“The peak of Covid infection in our village has passed, but the spring festival is approaching and there are still left-behind villagers, especially elderly people, at risk of secondary infection,” a doctor in Shaanxi province said in an article by regional news outlet Red Star News. “If the anti-viral and other drugs were more abundant, I would be more confident.”
As well as fever drugs and oxygen supplies, China’s National Health Commission has said it would equip every village clinic with pulse oximeters, fingertip devices commonly used during the pandemic to quickly check oxygen levels.
Beijing’s main rail station has been packed with passengers leaving the capital in recent days, according to witnesses.
In China’s most populous city, Shanghai, temporary night trains have been added to meet demand for travellers heading to the eastern Anhui province, China’s official state news agency Xinhua reported.
Meanwhile, daily arrivals in the gambling hub of Macau exceeded 55,000 on Saturday, the highest daily arrivals since the pandemic began.
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Source: The Guardian