Millions of Chinese workers are on the move ahead of Friday’s travel rush

Millions of Chinese workers are on the move ahead of Friday’s travel rush

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  • Half a million people now cross China’s borders every day
  • China is now open to the world – says the state leader at the World Economic Forum
  • Medical workers rush to vaccinate the elderly

BEIJING, Jan 18 (Reuters) – Millions of urban workers moved across China on Wednesday ahead of an expected Friday peak in their Lunar New Year mass migration, as Chinese leaders sought to jumpstart their COVID-hit economy.

Unfettered as authorities last month ended three years of some of the world’s strictest COVID-19 restrictions, workers flocked to train stations and airports to head for smaller towns and rural homes, sparking fears of spread of the virus epidemic.

Economists are scrutinizing the festive season, known as the Spring Festival, for glimpses of recovering consumption in the world’s second-largest economy after new GDP data on Tuesday confirmed sharp economic slowdown in China.

While some analysts expect the recovery to be slow, China’s Vice Premier Liu He told the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on Tuesday that China was open to the world after three years of pandemic isolation.

Officials at the National Immigration Administration said an average of half a million people had been moved into or out of China per day since its borders opened on Jan. 8, state media reported.

But as workers leave megacities, such as Shanghai, where officials say the virus has peaked, many are heading to towns and villages where unvaccinated adults have not yet been exposed to COVID and health systems are less equipped .


As the tide of COVID intensified, some forgot about the virus as they headed for the departure gates.

Commuters bustled through railway stations and subways in Beijing and Shanghai, many carrying large wheeled suitcases and boxes filled with food and gifts.

“I was a little worried (about the COVID-19 outbreak) before,” said migrant worker Jiang Zhiguang, waiting in the crowds at Shanghai’s Hongqiao Railway Station.

“It doesn’t matter now. It’s now okay if you get infected. You will just be sick for two days only,” Jiang, 30, told Reuters.

The infection rate in the southern city of Guangzhou, the capital of China’s most populous province, has already exceeded 85 percent, local health officials said Wednesday.

In more isolated areas, state medical workers this week went door-to-door in some remote villages to vaccinate the elderly, with the official Xinhua news agency describing Tuesday’s effort as the “last mile.”

Clinics in rural villages and towns are now being equipped with oxygenators, and medical vehicles are also being deployed in isolated areas.

While authorities confirmed on Saturday a huge increase in deaths – announcing that nearly 60,000 people with COVID died in hospitals between December 8 and January 12 – state media reported that health officials were not yet ready to give the World Health Organization ( WHO) the additional data it is now seeking.

Specifically, the UN agency wants information on so-called excess mortality – the number of all deaths above the norm during a crisis, the WHO said in a statement to Reuters on Tuesday.

The Global Times, a nationalist tabloid published by the official People’s Daily, quoted Chinese experts as saying that the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention is already monitoring such data, but it will take time before it can be published.

Doctors in public and private hospitals were actively discouraged from attributing the deaths to COVID, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

Reporting by Bernard Orr in Beijing and editorial staff in Beijing and Shanghai; Additional reporting By Xihao Jiang in Shanghai; Writing by Greg Torode; Editing by Michael Perry

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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