China Plays Down Covid Outbreak With Holiday Rush at Full Tilt

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Some health experts expect that more than one million people will die from the disease in China this year, with British-based health data firm Airfinity forecasting Covid fatalities could hit 36,000 a day next week.

People across China crowded into trains and buses for one of its busiest days of travel in years on Friday, feeding fears of new surges in a raging Covid-19 outbreak that officials say has hit its peak. In comments reported by state media late Thursday, Vice Premier Sun Chunlan said the virus was at a “relatively low” level, while health officials said the number of Covid patients in hospital and with critical conditions was on the decline. But there are widespread doubts about China’s official account of an outbreak that has overwhelmed hospitals and funeral homes since Beijing abandoned strict Covid controls and mass testing last month. That policy U-turn, which followed historic protests against the government’s tough anti-virus curbs, unleashed Covid on a population of 1.4 billion that had been largely shielded from the disease since it emerged in the city of Wuhan in late 2019.Some health experts expect that more than one million people will die from the disease in China this year, with British-based health data firm Airfinity forecasting Covid fatalities could hit 36,000 a day next week. Recently, the overall pandemic in the country is at a relatively low level,” Sun said in comments reported by the state-run Xinhua news agency.“The number of critical patients at hospitals is decreasing steadily, though the rescue mission is still heavy.”Her comments came on the eve of one of the most frenetic travel days in China since the pandemic erupted in late 2019, as millions of city-dwellers travel to their hometowns for the Lunar New Year holiday that officially begins on Saturday. More than 2 billion trips are expected to take place across China between Jan. 7 and Feb. 15, the government estimates. Excited passengers laden with luggage and boxes of gifts boarded trains on Friday, heading for long-awaited family reunions. “Everyone is eager to go home. After all, we haven’t seen our families for so long,” a 30-year-old surnamed Li told Reuters at Beijing’s West railway station. But for others, the holiday is a reminder of lost loved ones.

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