China’s major cities are beginning to overtake Covid, while rural areas are preparing for infection

Subway passenger traffic in Shanghai has quickly returned to levels seen before the latest Covid wave, according to Wind data. Pictured here is a subway car in the city on January 4, 2023.

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Larry Ho, chief China economist at Macquarie, said China is likely to be able to live with Covid-19 by the end of March, based on how quickly people get back on the streets.

He noted that subway and road data indicate that traffic in major cities is rebounding, indicating that the worst of the recent Covid wave has passed.

“The dramatic shift in China’s COVID policy since mid-November implies 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 rebound in the spring.”

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

Chongqing municipal health authorities said on Tuesday that the number of daily visitors to major fever clinics has just exceeded 3,000 — down sharply from Dec. 16 when the number of patients admitted exceeded 30,000. The district-wide population is about 32 million.

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Chongqing was the busiest city in mainland China during the Thursday morning rush hour, according to traffic data from Baidu. The figures showed an increase in traffic compared to last week across Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and other major cities.

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

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

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

Poor rural areas then

Medical researchers in Shanghai predicted in a study that the latest Covid wave will pass through major Chinese cities by the end of 2022, while rural areas – and the most remote provinces in central and western China – will become infected in mid-to-late January. .

the researchers said in a research paper published in late December by Frontiers of Medicine, a journal sponsored by China’s Ministry of Education.

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

The elderly, especially those with underlying health conditions, in remote areas of China face a higher risk of severe disease from the highly transmissible omicron variant, the researchers said. The authors were particularly concerned about shortages of medicines and intensive care units in the countryside.

Even before the epidemic, China’s public health system was overwhelmed. People from all over the country often travel to the crowded hospitals in the capital, Beijing, in order to get better healthcare than they can in their home towns.

Louise Lu, chief economist at Oxford Economics, remained cautious about a rapid recovery in the Chinese economy.

“The normalization of economic activity will take some time, which among other things requires a change in public perceptions toward contracting COVID and vaccine efficacy,” Lu said in a report on Wednesday.

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

long term risks

Medical researchers also warn of the risk of omicron outbreaks appearing on the mainland “in multiple waves,” with new spikes in infections likely in late 2023. “It should not be overestimated in the coming months and years.”

However, amid a lack of timely information, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday that it was China’s demand for more rapid, regular and reliable data on hospitalizations and deaths, as well as the most comprehensive real-time viral sequencing.”

China abruptly ended in early December many of its strict Covid controls that had restricted business and social activity. On Sunday, the country is set to officially end the quarantine requirement for inbound travelers, while also restoring the ability of Chinese citizens to travel abroad for leisure. The country has imposed strict border controls from March 2020 in an effort to contain COVID domestically.

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