Scores in China will be heading back to their ancestral homes amid ongoing wave of infections

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Washington, Jan 7 (IANS) As millions of Chinese head home for the Lunar New Year celebrations on January 22 and hospitals struggle amid a nationwide wave of COVID-19 cases, concerns are growing for the country’s rural healthcare systems, which have far fewer resources than the big city hospitals to treat the elderly and vulnerable, according to media reports.

Officials have warned of a fresh surge in coronavirus cases brought to rural areas by city residents traveling back home to welcome in the Year of the Rabbit, state broadcaster CGTN reported.

“We are extremely worried about the potential COVID-19 surge in rural areas as people are visiting homes after three years of strict measures that prevented people from going home,” Jiao Yahui, head of the Bureau of Medical Administration under the National Health Commission, had told journalists on January 3, RFA reported.

Villages in general lack adequate medical care or preventive measures, with many rural counties only served by a single hospital, two at the most, news site Guancha.cn quoted Wuhan University sociologist Lv Dewen as saying.

But some rural doctors told Radio Free Asia that the rural COVID-19 wave, which started last month in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, is already well under way.

A doctor working at the Gaoping township clinic in the central province of Hunan, serving a local population of some 40,000, said the clinic is already stretched with an influx of coronavirus cases.

“I haven’t had a day off in two weeks,” said the doctor, who declined to be named for fear of reprisals.

“If we get sick with a fever, we carry on working if we’re not too bad.”

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