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Holiday travel expected to increase virus spread
China Daily
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Holiday travel expected to increase virus spread

The domestic COVID-19 epidemic is at a low level and influenza infections are falling, but multiple respiratory viruses will continue to circulate during the upcoming Spring Festival holiday, health officials said on 4th of Feb.

Chen Cao, a viral disease researcher at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a news conference that the JN.1 Omicron variant has become the dominant COVID-19 strain domestically, but the majority of infections are mild cases.

Despite the virus' low prevalence at present, he said the number of COVID-19 infections and the positivity rate of the disease at sentinel hospitals have ticked up recently.

"With cross-regional movement and increasing gatherings around Spring Festival, the COVID-19 epidemic is expected to rise gradually," he said.

Chen added that the overall number of acute respiratory infections nationwide has been dropping in the past three weeks, and that cases of influenza — the main virus in circulation — have also declined.

"But China will continue to see the simultaneous spread of different respiratory diseases this month, and flu activity is forecast to drop to a relatively low level around the Spring Festival holiday," he said.

Gao Bo, deputy director of the Ministry of Transport's transport services department, said the first nine days of this holiday's travel rush that started on Jan 26 saw over 190 million cross-regional trips.

"We have required rigorous implementation of cleaning, sanitation and ventilation at transportation hubs and on public transportation vehicles," he said. "We also suggest travelers mask up when entering stations or using public transportation during the holiday."

Mi Feng, spokesman of the National Health Commission, said the commission has required localities to ensure medical emergency hotlines can be accessed around the clock during the holiday to deal with emergencies and the transport of patients.

Fever clinics at major hospitals and grassroots healthcare centers should be open during the holiday, and streamlined channels should be arranged for emergency care, pediatric, respiratory illness and other key departments.

Zhu Lan, a general physician at a community healthcare center in Shanghai's Xuhui district, said the district is requiring regular monitoring of respiratory diseases and that more attention be paid to key groups, such as the elderly and pregnant women, during the holiday.

Community health facilities have stocked up on common drugs such as at least a one-month supply of anti-fever and pain relief pills, she said.

China DailyShen Yi

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