chrysanthemums in the streets commemorate deaths from Covid

First celebration in three years after the suspension of the Zero-Covid measures. Families gather and transportation is crowded. The number of infections remains high. Overflowing hospitals and funeral homes. The authorities focused on economic growth. Internet censorship tightens.

Rome () – His family went to the Baotong temple on the first day of the Lunar New Year to augur fortune and happiness: on January 22, the sacred place was full of people. A Wuhan resident told that, since the suspension of the restrictions against the Covid in early December, life returned to normal, with people more relaxed and eager to celebrate the party. He confirmed that many people died in the city during the pandemic: “On Lunar New Year’s Eve, chrysanthemums were sold [utilizados para conmemorar a los muertos] in all streets.

In the capital of Hubei, where the virus first emerged three years ago, people set off fireworks to ring in the New Year. Many people offered bouquets of flowers and burned incense as is tradition to commemorate their relatives who died from Covid-19.

China celebrated the first Lunar New Year without closures or lockdowns since the outbreak of the epidemic three years ago. Millions of Chinese have returned to their hometowns to reunite with their families, and public transportation is as crowded as it was before the pandemic.

Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, stated that around 80% of the population had been infected with Covid. He explained that China has passed the peak of infections and that infections are declining.

He admitted that mass travel during the holidays will increase infections, but the possibility of a second wave of the epidemic in the next two to three months remains low. Chinese official media reports that the number of critically ill patients is declining, but the situation in hospitals remains dire.

It seems that the authorities adopted the tactic of infecting as many people as possible to get herd immunity first, in order to jump-start the economy. The national leadership announced that it wants to reactivate growth after three years of “Zero Covid” policy. Chinese GDP grew 3% in 2022, below the 5.5% target set by the authorities early last year. Liu He, outgoing vice premier, declared at the Davos Forum that China is coming back and is open for business.

According to Bloomberg, foreign direct investment in China fell 29% in December, after a 33% decline the previous month: in February 2020, when Wuhan announced the first lockdown, the drop was 26%. In all likelihood, foreign companies are losing trust and confidence, and it will take time to restore them.

The number of deaths from Covid is a sensitive issue for the authorities. Generally, for deaths after reopening, the reason for death listed on the death certificate is not coronavirus infection. At first, the Chinese authorities claimed that only dozens of people had died from Covid, but later declared some 60,000 deaths in hospitals. However, the figure does not include those who died at home.

Medical experts warn that the virus can spread to rural areas, where the healthcare system is poor, and poses a greater threat to vulnerable elderly groups.

Taking into account the saturation of the health system, the number of victims is much higher than that announced by the official media. Airfinity, a British health intelligence and analytics provider, estimated 674,000 deaths as of January 19. In December, the magazine Science he had estimated that more than a million people would die of Covid in the months that followed.

Reports and videos on the Internet show that funeral homes are overflowing and bodies are piling up to be cremated; the price of cremation is through the roof. Reuters He reported that many funeral homes are working at capacity and purchasing body bags, crematory ovens and refrigerators.

Authorities tightened internet censorship ahead of the Lunar New Year. China’s Internet watchdog agency announced it will crack down on “false information” about the pandemic and speech that creates a “gloomy atmosphere” during the holidays. This is a government effort to dampen social panic related to infections and deaths.

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