BEIJING, Jan 22 (Reuters) – China will ring in the Lunar New Year on Sunday with its people praying for health after three years of economic hardship and economic hardship during the outbreak, with officials saying nearly 13,000 have died from the virus between January 13 and 19.
Lines stretched nearly a kilometer (half a kilometer) outside Beijing’s famous Lama temple, which had been closed repeatedly before the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in early December, with thousands waiting for their turn to pray for their loved ones.
One Beijing resident said he wanted the year of the rabbit to bring “health to everyone”.
“I think the epidemic is over,” said the 57-year-old, who gave only his last name, Fang. “I didn’t get the virus, but my husband and everyone in my family did. I still think it’s important to protect myself.”
Earlier, officials reported that about 13,000 people died of COVID in hospitals between January 13 and 19, adding about 60,000 in the month or so before that. Chinese health experts say the number of infections across the country has already risen.
The change in the number of people who died, from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in China, comes amid doubts about the transparency of the data in Beijing and remains very low by international standards.
Hospitals and funeral homes were overcrowded after China abandoned the world’s strictest control over COVID-19 and began mass testing on December 7 in an emergency U-turn, which followed earlier protests against the measures.
The death toll reported by Chinese officials does not include those who died at home, and some doctors have expressed dismay at putting COVID on death certificates.
China on January 14 reported that nearly 60,000 people had died from COVID in hospitals between December 8 and January 12, a sharp increase from the 5,000-plus deaths previously reported over the course of the pandemic.
Funeral home spending on everything from body bags to crematoria has soared in many provinces, documents show, one of several signs of the deadly COVID-19 outbreak in China.
Some health experts expect more than one million people to die of the disease in China this year, with the British company Airfinity predicting that the death toll from COVID could hit 36,000 a day this week.
As millions of migrant workers return home for the New Year holiday, health experts are increasingly worried about people living in China’s big cities, where health facilities are scarce compared to those on the rich coast.
About 110 million train rides are said to have taken place on January 7-21, the first 15 days of the 40-day New Year’s holiday, up 28% year-on-year, the People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s official, said. The newspaper, it said.
A total of 26.23 million trips were made during the Lunar New Year via railways, highways, ships and planes, half before the outbreak, but up 50.8% from last year, state-run CCTV said.
The movement of people during the holiday season can spread the epidemic, exacerbating the disease in other areas, but a second wave of COVID is unlikely to happen anytime soon, Wu Zunyou, a senior epidemiologist at the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Saturday. on the Weibo social media platform.
The possibility of a resurgence of COVID in China in the next two to three months is remote since 80% of the population has been infected, Wu said.
After China reopened its borders on January 8, some Chinese also booked overseas trips. Asian tourist destinations have been seeking the return of Chinese tourists, who spent $255 billion a year globally before the outbreak.
“Because of the epidemic, we had not come out of China for three years,” said tourist and business owner Kiki Hu, 28, in Krabi on Thailand’s southwest coast. “Now we can leave and come here on vacation, I feel happy and emotional”.
Additional Beijing newsroom reports; By Marius Zaharia Edited by Shri Navaratnam
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