China's Lunar New Year travel offers spark of economic rebound from COVID crunch

SHANGHAI (Reuters) -Urban workers crowded train stations across China's largest cities on Tuesday as the country's mass migration for Lunar New Year holidays hit high gear, an

early sign of economic recovery as officials confirmed a historic plunge due to COVID-19 curbs. The world's second-largest economy slowed sharply in the fourth quarter, data

showed on Tuesday, dragging 2022 growth down to one its worst performances in nearly half a century after three years of COVID restrictions and lockdowns. With mass travel

for the Lunar New Year possible for the first time in nearly three years after the relaxing of some of the world's tightest COVID curbs, the economy stands to gain from hundreds

of thousands of people a day spending more as they return to China's hinterland. While many analysts say a return to economic normality will be gradual as the impact of

COVID weakens, some see the Lunar New Year as a welcome early consumption boost. "Peak infections passed in major cities in January, and with the Spring Festival coming,

tourism is back, and the signs of a recovery in consumption are obvious," said Nie Wen, a Shanghai based economist at the investment firm Hwabao Trust. But even as workers

move out, health experts fear a broadening and deepening of its COVID outbreak, leaving the elderly in rural villages particularly vulnerable. Despite Chinese authorities

confirming a huge increase in deaths on Saturday - announcing that nearly 60,000 people with COVID had died in hospitals between Dec. 8 and Jan. 12 - World Health Organization

(WHO) officials are seeking a more sweeping accounting of death rates.