China back to ‘normal’ official claims as virus spirals out of control

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China has returned to “normal” following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions early last month, an official has claimed — mere days after the nation reported 60,000 Covid-related deaths in just over a month. The contentious declaration was made by Chinese Vice Premier Liu He yesterday at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss Alpine resort town of Davos. Beijing has previously also asserted that both COVID-19 cases and emergency hospitalisations in China have now peaked and are on the decline.

Mr Liu told attendees at the World Economic Forum that China’s transition away from its previous, strict Zero Covid approach “has, overall been stable and smooth”.

He added: “The time to reach the peak and to return to normal has been relatively fast. In some senses, it has exceeded our expectations.

“Things have comprehensively returned to normal. Currently, the main difficulty is still the elderly, those with underlying conditions. We are currently striving to tackle this.”

Millions of China’s senior citizens remain incompletely vaccinated — a fact which has seen President Xi Jinping’s government criticised for its failure to adequately promote immunisation campaigns.

The politician went on to assert that China’s food, beverage, and tourism industries had all started to return to normal.

Some five billion trips, Mr He noted, are expected during the Lunar New Year festivities that begin this weekend.

Chinese officials have previously expressed concern that the celebrations — or, specifically, the associated travel — could give the virus the perfect opportunity to spread and bring a fresh wave of illness to the nation’s rural interior.

On January 2, National Health Commission Bureau of Medical Administration Director General Dr Yahui Jiao told state broadcaster China Central Television that such a surge was expected to pose an “enormous challenge”.

Dr Jiao added: “What we are most worried about is that, in the past three years, nobody has returned home for Lunar New Year, but they finally can this year.

“As a result, there may be a retaliatory surge of urban residents into the countryside to visit their relatives, so we are even more worried about the rural epidemic.

In light of this, Dr Jiao also promised that there would be a coordination of medical resources to ensure that patients in under-resourced, rural areas will receive adequate treatment.

This sentiment has been recently echoed by the Shanghai Health Commission’s Wen Daxiang, who added that China will also be boosting its health monitoring efforts and its management of the nation’s high-risk population.

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During his speech to the World Economic Forum, Mr Liu also took the opportunity to invite China’s “international friends” to visit the country.

Beijing dropped its quarantine requirements for overseas arrivals last week.

Mr Liu said: “We very much welcome international friends to come to China. We will provide the best service.”

However, he conceded, “of course, right now, on some issues we need some time to transition, but on the whole, there is already no problem.”

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