Will the Lunar New Year worsen China's COVID surge?

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STORY: Will the huge movement of city dwellers back to their families and rural hometowns for China's Lunar New Year exacerbate the coronavirus surge hitting that country?

... particularly in communities that are less equipped to handle the disease?

That's a question health authorities and small town doctors alike are struggling with this week, in what is believed to be the world's largest annual movement of people.

Train stations in China's cities are packed. It's one of its most important holidays. Travelers Reuters spoke with ranged from excited - this young man in Shanghai says he hasn't seen his parents in two years.

To skeptical - this person says he doesn't think the COVID situation is as serious as everyone says.

This is the first Lunar New Year after China ended three years of stringent COVID travel restrictions, lockdowns, and other measures.

But over the weekend China's government reported that nearly 60,000 people had died of the disease in hospitals between December 8 and January 12, a massive increase after criticisms from the World Health Organization of not reflecting the severity.

That number itself is also being debated, as it doesn't include people who died at home and there are questions over how a COVID death is reported.

An article by a doctor in one local news outlet in Shaanxi province, Red Star News, said that although he believed the peak of COVID had passed that he was concerned about villagers, particularly the elderly, at risk of secondary infections. Villagers that he said were "left behind," and that he wished anti-viral drugs were more abundant.

The Lunar New Year officially begins on the 21st and China's state media is full of reports of rural communities bolstering their medical supplies.