Chinese pray for health as COVID death toll rises

STORY: China rang in the Lunar New Year on Sunday with its people praying for health after three years of stress and financial hardship under the pandemic.

Queues stretched for a half-mile outside the iconic Lama temple in Beijing, which had been repeatedly shut before COVID-19 restrictions ended in early December.

With thousands of people waiting for their turn to pray for their loved ones, as officials reported almost 13,000 new deaths caused by the virus between January 13 and 19.

This toll added to the nearly 60,000 in the month or so before that.

“We need to work hard to solve these problems and keep going,” said Beijing resident Gong. “I hope we can have a better future and everyone can have a better life,” he stated.

This is the first Lunar New Year in two years without COVID-19 restrictions and it sparked a mass movement of people.

On the Lunar New Year eve, more 26 million trips were made by railway, highway, ships and planes; half the pre-pandemic levels, but up by about 50% from last year, state-run CCTV reported.

Celebrating with his family, real estate professional Guo Jin says he wishes for prosperous business, restored production but most importantly good health.

“We have a senior in our family, he is in his eighties, I hope he stays healthy,” he says.

As millions of migrant workers return home for Lunar New Year celebrations, health experts are particularly concerned about people living in China's vast countryside, where medical facilities are poor compared with those in richer coastal areas.