China’s major cities begin to look beyond Covid as rural areas brace for infections


According to Wind, Shanghai subway passenger traffic is quickly returning to pre-Covid wave levels. The photo shows a subway car in the city on January 4, 2023.

hugo hu | Getty Images News | Getty Images

BEIJING – China could be living with Covid-19 until the end of March depending on how quickly people return to the streets, said Larry Hu, chief China economist at Macquarie.

Metro and road data show traffic is recovering in major cities, suggesting the worst of the latest Covid wave is over.

“China’s drastic change in Covid policy since mid-November means a short-term contraction of the economy, but a faster reopening and recovery,” Hu said in a report on Wednesday. “Economy may rebound strongly in spring.”

In the past few days, the southern city of Guangzhou and the tourist hub of Sanya have said they have passed the peak of the Covid wave.

The Chongqing Municipal Department of Health said on Tuesday that the number of daily visitors to major fever clinics was just over 3,000, a sharp drop from Dec. 16 when the number of patients exceeded 30,000. The province-level region has about 32 million inhabitants.

Chongqing was the most congested city in mainland China during the morning rush hour on Thursday, according to Baidu traffic data. The figures show that traffic in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and other major cities increased a week earlier.

As of Wednesday, subway ridership in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou had risen sharply from lows in recent weeks, but had recovered to about two-thirds of last year’s level, according to Wind Information.

Caixin’s monthly survey of service companies in December found them the most optimistic in about a year and a half, according to a statement on Thursday. A seasonally adjusted index of business activity rose to 48 in December from a six-month low of 46.7 in November.

A reading below 50 still indicates reduced trading activity. Caixin’s own survey index of manufacturers fell slightly to 49 in December from 49.4 in November. Their optimism was the highest in ten months.

Then poor rural areas

The latest wave of Covid-19 will pass through China’s major cities by the end of 2022, while rural areas and remote provinces in central and western China will be affected by infections from mid-January, Shanghai medical researchers said in a study. end of January.

“The duration and scale of future outbreaks may be greatly increased by large-scale travel during the Spring Festival (Jan. 21, 2023),” the researchers said in a paper sponsored by the journal Frontiers of Medicine in late December. Chinese Ministry of Health. Education.

Usually, hundreds of millions of people travel during the holidays, also known as the Lunar New Year.

The researchers said elderly people in remote areas of China, particularly those in poor health, were at greater risk of serious illness from the highly contagious version of omicron. The authors were particularly concerned about the lack of medical and intensive care units in the village.

Before the pandemic, China’s health care system was strained. People from all over the country often visited the crowded hospitals in the capital, Beijing, for better medical care than in their hometowns.

Louise Lu, a senior economist at Oxford Economics, expressed caution about China’s rapid economic recovery.

“The normalization of economic activity will take some time and will also require a change in public perception about the reduction of Covid and the effectiveness of the vaccine,” Lu said in a report on Wednesday.

The company expects China’s GDP to grow by 4.2% in 2023.

Constant long-term risk

Medical researchers have also warned of the risk of Omicron epidemics “appearing in several waves” on the continent, which could lead to a further increase in infections at the end of 2023. The product distributed in China will not be overvalued in the coming months and years.”

However, due to a lack of timely information, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday it would ask China for “faster, more consistent and reliable data on hospitalizations and deaths, as well as a comprehensive real-time virus system”.

In early December, China suddenly lifted many of its strict Covid controls that had limited business and social activity. The country is expected to formally end the quarantine requirement for incoming travelers on Sunday, restoring the ability of Chinese nationals to take vacations abroad. The country has imposed strict border controls since March 2020 to contain Covid inside the country.

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