China’s big cities begin to pass Covid as rural areas prepare for infections

Passenger traffic on the Shanghai Metro is quickly returning to levels seen before the latest Covid wave, according to data from Wind. Pictured here is a subway car in the city on January 4, 2023.

Hugo Hu | News from Getty Images | Getty Images

BEIJING – China will likely be able to live with Covid-19 until the end of March based on how quickly people are back on the streets, said Larry Hu, chief China economist at Macquarie.

Metro and road data show that traffic in major cities is recovering, he said, indicating that the worst of the last Covid wave has passed.

“The dramatic turnaround in China’s Covid policy since mid-November suggests a deeper short-term economic contraction but a faster reopening and recovery,” Hu said in a report on Wednesday. “The economy could see a strong recovery in the spring.”

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

Chongqing municipal health authorities said on Tuesday that daily visitors to major fever clinics were just over 3,000 – a sharp drop from Dec. 16, when the number of admitted patients exceeded 30,000. The province-wide region has a population of about 32 million people .

Chongqing was the busiest city in mainland China during Thursday morning’s rush hour, according to Baidu traffic data. The figures show increased traffic from a week ago in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and other major cities.

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

Caixin’s monthly survey of services businesses in December found they were the most upbeat they had been in about a year and a half, according to a report on Thursday. The seasonally adjusted index of business activity rose to 48 in December from a six-month low of 46.7 in November.

That reading below 50 still indicates a contraction in business activity. A separate survey of Caixin manufacturers fell to 49 in December from 49.4 in November. Their optimism is the highest in ten months.

The poorer rural areas follow

Shanghai medical researchers have predicted in a study that the latest Covid wave will pass through China’s major cities by the end of 2022, while rural areas – and more remote provinces in central and western China – will be hit by infections in mid-to-late January .

“The duration and scale of the impending outbreak may be dramatically increased by extensive travel during the Spring Festival (January 21, 2023),” the researchers said in an article published in late December by Frontiers of Medicine, a journal sponsored by the Chinese Ministry of Health. of health care education.

Hundreds of millions of people usually travel during the holiday, also known as the Lunar New Year.

The researchers said senior citizens, especially those with underlying health conditions, in remote areas of China face a greater risk of severe disease from the highly transmissible omicron variant. The authors are particularly worried about the lack of medicines and intensive care units in the province.

Even before the pandemic, China’s public health system was stretched thin. People from all over the country often traveled to overcrowded hospitals in the capital, Beijing, to receive better health care than in their hometowns.

Oxford Economics senior economist Louise Lo remains cautious about China’s rapid economic recovery.

“The normalization of economic activity will take some time, requiring, among other things, a change in public perceptions towards Covid infection and vaccine effectiveness,” Lu said in a report on Wednesday.

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

Continued long-term risk

The medical researchers also warned of the risk of omicron outbreaks on the continent “occurring in multiple waves”, with new spikes in infections possible in late 2023. “The importance of regular surveillance of circulating sublines and variants of SARS-CoV-2 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 that it was asking China for “faster, regular and reliable data on hospitalizations and deaths, as well as more comprehensive real-time viral sequencing.”

In early December, China abruptly ended many of its strict Covid control measures that had restricted business and social activity. On Sunday, the country will officially end the quarantine requirement for arriving travelers while restoring the ability of Chinese citizens to travel abroad for leisure. The country has imposed strict border controls since March 2020 in an attempt to contain Covid in the country.

China’s big cities begin to pass Covid as rural areas prepare for infections

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