Each year is named after one of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac in a repeating cycle, this year being the Year of the Rabbit.  

For the past three years, the celebrations were canceled in the shadow of controversial restrictions encompassed by the Zero-COVID policy. 

That’s why this Sunday, January 22, the Chinese celebrated the Lunar New Year in style. 

In particular, crowds were seen praying for their health and their families after three years of confinement due to the pandemic. 

According to Reuters, queues stretched for about half a mile outside the iconic Lama temple in Beijing. 

The temple had been repeatedly closed before the COVID-19 restrictions until early December. 

There were thousands of people waiting their turn to pray for their loved ones. 

Citing security reasons, the Tibetan Buddhist site allows up to 60,000 visitors daily and requires a reservation in advance. 

Chinese officials have reported nearly 13,000 COVID-related deaths in hospitals between January 13 and January 19, adding to almost 60,000 the previous month.  

However, there are doubts about the transparency of Beijing’s data, and certainly the official numbers remain extremely low. 

Hospitals and funeral homes have been overwhelmed in China in recent weeks. 

The Communist regime had implemented the world’s strictest mass screening and testing. 

Historic protests against the draconian restrictions prompted Beijing to abruptly change its policy on December 7. 

The death count reported by Chinese authorities excludes those who died at home. 

In addition, doctors have said they are being forced not to write COVID on death certificates. 

One of several indications of the deadly impact of COVID in China is the exponential increase in spending on funeral home items in many provinces, from body bags to cremation ovens. 

Some health experts expect more than 1 million people to die from the disease in China this year. 

British health data firm Airfinity forecasts that COVID deaths could reach 36,000 per day this week. 

As millions of migrant workers return home for Lunar New Year celebrations, health experts are particularly concerned about people living in China’s vast countryside, where medical facilities are poor compared with those in affluent coastal areas. 

After China reopened its borders on January 8, some Chinese also booked overseas travel.  

Asian tourist hotspots have been preparing for the return of Chinese tourists, who spent $255 billion a year worldwide before the pandemic.

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