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China COVID peak to last 2-3 months, hit rural areas next - expert

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The peak of China's COVID-19 wave is expected to last two to three months, and will soon swell over the vast countryside where medical resources are relatively scarce, a top Chinese epidemiologist has said.

Infections are expected to surge in rural areas as hundreds of millions travel to their home towns for the Lunar New Year holidays, which officially start from Jan. 21, known before the pandemic as the world's largest annual migration of people.

BEIJING, Jan 13 (Reuters) - The peak of China's COVID-19 wave is expected to last two to three months, and will soon swell over the vast countryside where medical resources are relatively scarce, a top Chinese epidemiologist has said.

Infections are expected to surge in rural areas as hundreds of millions travel to their home towns for the Lunar New Year holidays, which officially start from Jan. 21, known before the pandemic as the world's largest annual migration of people.

China last month abruptly abandoned the strict anti-virus regime of mass lockdowns that fuelled historic protests across the country in late November, and finally reopened its borders this past Sunday.

The abrupt dismantling of restrictions has unleashed the virus onto China's 1.4 billion people, more than a third of whom live in regions where infections are already past their peak, according to state media.

But the worst of the outbreak was not yet over, warned Zeng Guang, the former chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, according to a report published in local media outlet Caixin on Thursday.

"Our priority focus has been on the large cities. It is time to focus on rural areas," Zeng was quoted as saying.

He said a large number of people in the countryside, where medical facilities are relatively poor, are being left behind, including the elderly, the sick and the disabled.

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