China’s Covid surge ‘is coming to an end’, health officials have claimed, saying there have been no signs of a new surge in the Lunar New Year holiday period, despite a sharp rise trips compared to last year.
Government figures released on Tuesday showed a sharp increase in tourism and hotel activity compared to the same period last year. Factory activity also rebounded for the first time in four months, an early sign of an economic comeback after the country reported its slowest growth in around half a century under tight Covid controls.
After abruptly lifting zero-Covid restrictions in early December, China has been overwhelmed by a wave of Covid cases. Available data on hospital admissions and fever clinics released in recent weeks showed an apparent spike in infections around early January.
It was feared that the mass travel of hundreds of millions of people for the Lunar New Year period could further spread infections.
On Tuesday, however, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claimed that “there has been no obvious rebound in Covid cases”.
“At this time, no new variants have been discovered, and the country’s current surge is coming to an end.”
Department for Transport figures showed travel in the first 22 days of this year’s travel season was 75.8 per cent higher than in 2022, although it was still only around half of the number of trips made during the last pre-pandemic Lunar New Year in 2019.
Officials had predicted travel would increase 99.5% year-on-year across the full 40 days and reach 70.3% of pre-pandemic levels, said analytics firm Trivium. .
Other economic numbers were mixed, as China grapples with the lingering effects of zero-Covid on its economy. The most positive results were recorded in the tourism and hospitality sectors, which reached nearly 81% of pre-pandemic levels.
Domestic tourist travel rose to 88.6% from the 2019 level, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism said, but income from consumer-related industries rose only 12.2% during the month. first week of the vacation period.
The official Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for the manufacturing sector stood at 50.1, down from 47.0 in December, the National Bureau of Statistics (SNB) said on Tuesday. The 50 point mark separates contraction from growth.
The IMF also revised China’s growth outlook for 2023 up to 5.2% from 4.4% in the October forecast, after Covid zero lockdown policies in 2022 cut the rate of country’s growth at 3.0%.
The Lunar New Year period – which lasts about 40 days – has been called the largest human migration in the world, with hundreds of millions of people traveling across China and the region, including migrant domestic workers returning to their villages. and hometowns to meet. with family. For many it is the only chance to return home each year, but the pandemic had prevented many in recent years.
Even after restrictions were lifted this year, people were urged to reconsider visiting the elderly relatives of those relatives who had not yet been infected.
The true scale of infections and deaths – especially outside cities – is unclear. Death estimates range from around 80,000 – the official figure based on cases in hospitals – to more than one million according to global health experts.