China urges farmers to avoid CNY holiday gatherings to slow Covid-19 spread

People visit Yonghe temple to pray for blessings on the first day of the new year in Beijing, on Jan 1, 2023. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING – China has asked farmers to avoid large gatherings and send their Chinese New Year greetings virtually to try and curb the impact of a severe wave of Covid-19 in the countryside.

Disease prevention and control in rural areas has reached its “most difficult time” as the holiday season approaches, the agriculture ministry said in a statement published late on Thursday.

It recommended farmers get vaccinated, wear masks and send greetings by phone or WeChat rather than in-person. 

The measures reflect Beijing’s fear that the impact of outbreaks in major cities would be even more severe in the countryside, where people are older, vaccination rates are lower and medical care isn’t as good.

Hundreds of millions of Chinese are preparing to head back to rural areas for the Chinese New Year festivities later this month. 

In addition, the impact of a major wave in the countryside threatens to hinder the planting and harvesting of crops, which could lead to food shortages and faster inflation.

Spring planting usually begins around March, and is important to secure sufficient grain production for the year. 

The agriculture ministry urged farmers to pay attention to their own health, seek medical care when needed and not spread or believe rumours.

“The epidemic will eventually pass, and the dawn is just ahead,” it said in the statement. “Everyone is the first person responsible for their own health.” BLOOMBERG

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