China says Covid-19 deaths fell even as Chinese New Year holiday travel likely to spread virus

An estimated 226 million domestic trips were made in China during the holiday week that ended on Friday. PHOTO: NYTIMES

BEIJING – China reported a sharp drop in new Covid-19-related deaths during the week-long Chinese New Year holiday, even as a spike in travel increased the likelihood of more infections across the country.

The Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said on Saturday that 6,364 deaths were linked to Covid-19 at hospitals across the country between Jan 20 and Jan 26, almost half as many as the previous week.

In the latest tally, 289 died from respiratory failure and 6,075 died from other underlying diseases but were infected with Covid-19, the centre said. 

The government reported 12,658 deaths at hospitals between Jan 13-19 and 59,938 for Dec 8-Jan 12 after the authorities scrapped Covid-19 curbs in December.

The relaxed rules encouraged millions of people to travel home during the holiday to reunite with their families for the first time in years. The number of people making trips inside China over the holiday surged 74 per cent from 2022, state broadcaster CCTV reported on Saturday, citing government figures.

An estimated 226 million domestic trips were made by all means of travel, including by plane, during the holiday week that ended on Friday.

That compares with about 130 million domestic trips during the holiday week in 2022, according to the Transport Ministry.

In the last Chinese New Year holiday before the coronavirus was first detected in late 2019 in the central city of Wuhan, around 420 million trips were made internally.

As for trips abroad, the National Immigration Administration said on Friday that cross-border trips more than doubled in the first six days of the holiday to a total of 2.39 million, up 123.9 per cent compared with the same period last year.

During the Chinese New Year holiday in 2019, a total of 12.53 million cross-border trips were made, Xinhua news agency reported. REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

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