China’s cities begin to look past Covid, as rural areas brace for infections

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Subway passenger traffic in Shanghai is quickly returning to levels seen before the latest Covid wave, according to Wind data. This photo shows a subway car in the city on January 4, 2023.

Hugo Hu| Getty Images News | Getty Images

BEIJING – China will likely be able to survive Covid-19 by the end of March, based on how quickly people have returned to the streets, said Larry Hu, Macquarie’s chief China economist.

Subway and highway data show that traffic in cities is rebounding, he said, indicating that the latest wave of Covid has passed.

“The dramatic U-turn in China’s Covid policy since mid-November means a deeper short-term economic recession but a faster reopening and recovery,” Hu said in a report on Wednesday. “The economy will see a strong recovery this Spring.”

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

Chongqing municipal health authorities said on Tuesday that daily visitors to high fever clinics were just over 3,000 – down sharply from December 16 when the number of patients received exceeded 30,000. The area has a population of about 32 million at the province level.

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Chongqing was the most congested city in mainland China during Thursday morning rush hour, according to Baidu traffic data. The figures showed increased traffic from a week ago across Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and other cities.

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

Caixin’s monthly survey of service industries in December found they were the most optimistic they had been in about a year and a half, according to a press release Thursday. The seasonally adjusted index of business activity rose to 48 in December, up from a six-month low of 46.7 in November.

That sub-50 reading still indicates a decline in business activity. The index for the Caixin survey of half of manufacturers fell to 49 in December, from 49.4 in November. Their hope was at its highest in ten months.

Poorer rural areas next

Shanghai medical researchers predicted in a study that the latest wave of Covid would pass through China’s major cities by the end of 2022, while rural areas – and areas further afield in central and western China – hit by diseases in the middle and end of January. .

“The duration and size of the outbreak could be greatly increased by the widespread visits during the Spring Festival (January 21, 2023),” the researchers said in a paper published in late December by Frontiers of Medicine, a journal sponsored by the Ministry of Medicine of China. Education.

Usually hundreds of millions of people travel during the holiday, also known as the Lunar New Year.

The researchers said that elderly people, especially those with underlying health conditions, in remote areas of China are at increased risk of serious illness from the highly transmissible omicron variant. The authors were particularly concerned about the lack of medical and intensive care units in the country.

Even before the pandemic, China’s public health system was stretched. People from all over the country often traveled to crowded hospitals in the capital city of Beijing to get better health care than they could in their hometowns.

Oxford Economics senior economist Louise Loo remained cautious about a rapid recovery in China’s economy.

“Normalization in economic activity will take some time, requiring among other things a change in public attitudes towards Covidien and vaccine effectiveness,” Loo said in a report on Wednesday.

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

Chronic long-term risk

The medical researchers also warned of the risk that the omicron outbreak on the mainland “may appear in many waves,” with an increase in possible infections at the end of 2023. It will not be overestimated in the months and in the years to come.”

However, amid a lack of timely information, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday it wanted China to provide “faster, more consistent, more reliable data on hospitalizations and deaths, as well as a more complete, real-time viral sequence .”

China in early December abruptly ended many of its strict Covid controls that had limited business and social activity. On Sunday, the country is expected to formally end the quarantine requirement for incoming travelers, while restoring the ability of Chinese citizens to travel abroad for leisure. The country imposed strict border controls starting in March 2020 in an effort to contain Covid at home.

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