• The curbs condemn the world no. 2 economy to weakest sample in almost 50 years
  • 390,000 train passengers in Shanghai’s festive exodus on Tuesday
  • Domestic flights seen at over 80% of pre-COVID levels
  • Fears over the spread of COVID; WHO pushes for more comprehensive mortality data

SHANGHAI, Jan 17 (Reuters) – Urban workers packed train stations in China’s biggest cities on Tuesday as the country’s mass migration for the Lunar New Year festivities accelerated, an early sign of economic recovery as authorities confirmed a historic drop due to COVID-19. curbs

The world’s second-largest economy slowed sharply in the fourth quarter, data showed Tuesday, dragging 2022 growth to one of its worst performances in nearly half a century after three years of COVID restrictions and lockdowns.

With the ability to travel en masse for the Lunar New Year for the first time in nearly three years after some of the world’s toughest COVID restrictions were relaxed, the economy will benefit from hundreds of thousands of people spending more up to date as they return to the interior of China. .

While many analysts say the return to economic normalcy will be gradual as the impact of COVID weakens, some see the Lunar New Year as a welcome early boost to consumption.

“The peak of infections passed in major cities in January, and with the arrival of the Spring Festival, tourism is back and signs of a recovery in consumption are obvious,” said Nie Wen, a Shanghai-based economist at investment firm Hwabao Trust.

But even as workers move, health experts fear the COVID outbreak will widen and deepen, leaving the elderly in rural villages particularly vulnerable.

Despite Chinese authorities confirming a large increase in deaths on Saturday, announcing that nearly 60,000 people with COVID had died in hospitals between December 8 and January 12, World Health Organization (WHO) officials ) seek a broader accounting of mortality rates.

The WHO previously welcomed Saturday’s announcement after warning last week that China was undercounting deaths from the virus.

Specifically, the UN agency wants information on so-called excess mortality – the number of all deaths beyond normal during a crisis, the WHO said in a statement to Reuters.

“This is especially important during periods of surges when the healthcare system is severely constrained,” the statement said Monday.

The WHO added that it would continue to work with China to provide advice and support, but had yet to set another formal meeting with Chinese officials after WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke with Ma Xiaowei, director of the National Commission for China Health, the weekend.


The Ministry of Transport estimated that the rush will generate a total of 2.1 billion passenger trips across the country between January 7 and February 15, as many Chinese city dwellers make the most of their first opportunity to travel in the Lunar New Year to see extended family in home regions. since the pandemic began.

Chinese officials scrapped Beijing’s “zero COVID” policy, an approach previously advocated by Communist Party leader Xi Jinping, in early December, allowing the virus to spread unchecked among its population of 1.4 billion.

State media reported that some 390,000 passengers were expected to travel from Shanghai railway stations on Tuesday alone for what is known as the Spring Festival holiday, seen as the world’s largest annual mass migration before COVID.

As commuters passed through stations in Shanghai, China’s largest city, some expressed optimism despite the risks.

“I am not worried about the virus. Because we are young, our immunity is fine,” Zhou Ning, a 37-year-old migrant worker, told Reuters outside the Shanghai train station as he prepared to return to his home area in Bazhong in the northeastern province of Shanghai. Sichuan.

“In my hometown, there are a lot of people who have tested positive, but I’m not worried about it.”

On a train leaving Shanghai, fellow migrant worker Feng Hongwei, 21, said he was “very happy, very excited” as he began his journey back to Puyang, Henan. “I haven’t seen my parents in two years.”

The holiday season has also sparked a revival in domestic air travel with more than 70,000 flights across China between January 7 and 13, according to industry data reported by Shanghai Securities News on Monday. That equates to more than 80% of the levels seen before the pandemic.

International air links are also recovering. Emirates Airlines became the latest airline on Monday to announce that it would resume services from its Dubai hub to Shanghai this week and would operate daily flights to Shanghai and Beijing from March.

Reporting from Shanghai and Beijing newsrooms; Written by Greg Torode; Edited by Kenneth Maxwell

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