Before the 2023 Chinese New Year holiday which begins Jan. 21st and ends Jan. 27, China’s health officials are asking people to stay put and protect elderly family members rather than travel and risk exacerbating China’s ongoing COVID outbreak.

It’s an agonizing decision for hundreds of millions of migrant workers and students, who may have hoped to reunite with family during the Chinese New Year (also known as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival), the first in mainland China without any COVID restrictions since the pandemic began.

Elderly people in rural communities “may be infected during Spring Festival when they meet relatives and friends,” Liang Wannian, who heads the country’s COVID-19 response team, told state broadcaster CCTV on Monday.

Guo Jianwen, a member of China’s pandemic prevention team, suggested on Thursday that if Chinese people were worried about infecting their elderly relatives, “don’t go home to visit them.” He said, “You have all kinds of ways to show you care for them, you don’t necessarily need to bring the virus to their home.”

Chinese social media users were very interested in the topic of whether or not to return home for Chinese New Years. Reuters Reporting the question was most popular item WeiboOn Thursday, Twitter-like social media platform, was launched as. 

One popular response on social media called Guo’s suggestion to stay home “one of the few useful suggestions put forward during this period,” according to The Guardian. The post is a reflection on the frustration of the public with the rapidly changing environment. changing medical advice doled out by China’s health experts. 

What happens during Chinese New Year celebrations?

Much of China’s urban labor force is made up of migrants from China’s rural heartland, and many return home to see family for the Chinese New Year holiday. Students studying in the country’s universities also return home for the holidays.

China expects to spend over 2 billion trips over the “Chunyan” period, a 40-day stretch of holiday travel. The period runs from Jan. 7 to February 15.

Chinese New Year was once the world’s largest movement of people, with 3 billion trips travelled by passengers in 2019 before the pandemic. (By comparison, American Automobile Association estimated In 2019, more than 55 million Americans took trips during the Thanksgiving holiday.

During the pandemic, however, some people were unable to travel to China for Chinese New Year because of restrictions on their mobility. Those considering trips They were afraid that snap lockdowns might prevent them from returning home to their school or workplace. So they decided to stay put.

How many COVID cases does China currently have?

Yet it may be too late for health officials’ advice to ward off further COVID infections. China’s COVID outbreak is already spreading to rural communitiesEven though the outbreak was raging may be peaking Major cities 

China is experiencing an unprecedented increase in cases. China’s official case and death numbers—503,302 and 5,272, respectively—under-represent the scope of the outbreak since Beijing changed how it records COVID cases and deaths last month. Officials from the health sector have suggested that daily cases could reach into the millions. An official from Henan spoke out earlier this week. estimated that 90% of local residents had now caught COVID, which would put the province’s case count alone close to 90 million. 

Airfinity, a U.K. based health research company, forecasts Over 3.5 million people are suffering from COVID every day and more than 20,700 people are currently dying each day. According to the company, the epidemic will peak in January 2013. 

China’s health care system is already stretched by the outbreak, with hospital space and medicine running low. There are even fewer resources in China’s countryside, with rural communities having less than half as many doctors and nurses as cities, according to the South China Morning Post. According to the, villages also have run out of fever and cough medication, which has forced communities to appeal to donors over the internet. SCMP

Beijing on Sunday ordered villages to stockpile at least two weeks’ worth of medicine, and set up teams of volunteer drivers to carry people to treatment centers, according to state-run paper Global Times.

China has low vaccination rates among its elderly population, which makes matters worse. Early December saw health officials announce that they had vaccinated 1.2 million people. estimated that only 40% of the country’s over-80 population had gotten the booster shot needed to protect against newer COVID variants. China, according to outside experts, is also susceptible to COVID variants. needs to import It is better to rely on mRNA vaccines that are more effective than those made at home.

Officials at the World Health Organization stated that they were ready to work with China in order to manage the wave of holiday-goers returning home, but needed more information. “There are some very important information gaps that we are working with China to fill,” Maria Van Kerkove, the WHO’s COVID technical lead, told reporters Wednesday China was accused by the WHO minimizing The extent of its spread, especially in relation to hospitalizations or deaths. 

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