Surge in infections feared in China ahead of Lunar New Year holiday

Migrant workers and others have started to head to their rural hometowns in China ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, amid a surge in coronavirus infections around the country.

In the lead-up to the holiday period, which begins on January 21, public transport operators have boosted the numbers of train and bus services, starting on Saturday.

Migrant workers and families carrying large bags were seen at Guangzhou Station in the southern province of Guangdong from early in the morning.

A woman who was going to take a 17-hour journey to her hometown said she had not been home for nearly three years due to the pandemic. She said she was looking forward to spending time with her parents.

Now that strict pandemic restrictions have been lifted in China, nearly 2.1 billion trips are expected to take place during a 40-day period before and after Lunar New Year's Day. That's double the number seen last year.

Concerns are mounting that the mass exodus may trigger a surge in infections among elderly populations in rural areas. Provincial governments are bolstering anti-infection measures by securing more medical workers and stockpiles of medicine.

A woman who was heading for her home in an inland region said she had seen many elderly people die from the disease. She said she was worried that the holiday exodus could help spread a new variant.