A prominent scientist says the Lunar New Year travel rush will not lead to a spike in COVID cases as most people have already been infected.
The possibility of a large-scale resurgence of COVID-19 in China in the next few months is remote, as 80 percent of the country’s population is infected, a prominent government scientist said.
Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Saturday that mass movement of people during the ongoing Lunar New Year the holiday period may spread the pandemic by increasing infections in some areas, but a second wave of COVID is unlikely in the next two to three months.
That’s because the ongoing wave of the outbreak — driven mostly by multiple sub-branches of the Omicron strain — “has already infected 80 percent of the population,” he was quoted as saying on social media platform Weibo.
Wu’s statement came as hundreds of millions of Chinese traveled around the country for holiday gatherings that were suspended due to recently eased COVID-19 restrictions.
With about five billion passenger trips expected, fears of new outbreaks in rural areas, which are less equipped to deal with large numbers of infections, have increased.
But the government has moved to ease fears, with the National Health Commission saying on Thursday that China has passed the peak of COVID-19 patients in fever clinics, emergency rooms and in critical conditions.
Nearly 60,000 people with COVID-19 have had died in hospital as of Jan. 12, according to government data, roughly a month after China abruptly lifted its zero-Covid policy.
But some experts said that figure likely greatly underestimates the full effect because it excludes those who die at home and because many doctors said they were reluctant to cite COVID-19 as the cause of death.
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