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Coronavirus Update: China’s Lunar New Year celebrations raise concerns about COVID spread, while officials say peak is past

A few days into the first Lunar New Year holiday since the lifting of pandemic restrictions in China, Chinese consumers are eager to travel but are also wary as a major COVID wave sweeps the nation, MarketWatch’s Tanner Brown reported.

The 15-day festival is considered the world’s largest annual migration, during which students and workers return to their hometowns in droves — that is, until COVID shut down travel in 2020.

On Saturday, officials said that as much as 80% of the population has been infected since the lifting of restrictions in December, amounting to 1.2 billion people.

On Wednesday, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said critically ill COVID cases are down 72% from their peak earlier this month and that daily deaths are down 79% from their peak, as Reuters reported.

China has been criticized for underreporting its COVID numbers since the start of the pandemic. And its latest fatality numbers only include people who died in hospitals, excluding those who died at home.

Countries around the world are welcoming back Chinese tourists, once the largest source of tourism revenue globally. But even as China reopens its borders, the travel industry isn’t expecting things to bounce back to what they used to be just yet. Here’s why. Photo illustration: Adam Adada

In the U.S., the seven-day average of new cases stood at 45,656 on Tuesday, according to a New York Times tracker. That’s down 30% from two weeks ago, confirming the recent downtrend.

The daily average for hospitalizations was down 24% to 36,227. The average for deaths was 542, down 7% from two weeks ago.

Cases are currently rising in just five states: Illinois, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alaska and Kansas, along with Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

On a per capita basis, they are highest in Tennessee, at 41 new cases per 100,000 residents.

Coronavirus Update: MarketWatch’s daily roundup has been curating and reporting all the latest developments every weekday since the coronavirus pandemic began

Other COVID-19 news you should know about:

• Abbott Laboratories’
ABT,
-1.23%

quarterly earnings released Wednesday showed that the headwinds from its baby-formula business and declining sales of COVID-19 tests are still weighing on the company’s performance. The company’s diagnostics division reported $3.3 billion in revenue, including about $1.1 billion in sales of COVID-19 tests, in the final three months of the year. The FactSet consensus was $2.6 billion. But overall, the company beat profit and revenue expectations.

• Intuitive Surgical Inc.’s stock
ISRG,
-5.88%

was down 7% Wednesday, after the maker of surgical robotic systems missed earnings estimates amid COVID-related disruption. The company said it was able to place 369 of its flagship Da Vinci Surgical Systems, a 4% drop from 385 in the fourth quarter of 2021. Procedures using the system rose about 18%, but the COVID-19 resurgence in China “negatively impacted” procedure volumes in the region. COVID-19 disruptions later in the quarter also affected the U.S. and Europe, the company said. 

• As cases of COVID, flu and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, surged in the fall as part of a “tripledemic” in the U.S., demand for cold medications translated to a good quarter for Johnson & Johnson’s
JNJ,
-0.31%

consumer health business, the company said on Tuesday. J & J’s over-the-counter division, which includes the pain reliever Motrin and the allergy medicine Zyrtec, had sales of $1.57 billion in the final three months of 2022, up from $1.37 billion in the same quarter of the previous year. It also beat the FactSet consensus of $1.4 billion. (The company does not break out sales for specific products.) The company cited Motrin and Tylenol as “major contributors to growth” for the OTC business in the fourth quarter.

Here’s what the numbers say:

The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 topped 669.3 million on Wednesday, while the death toll rose above 6.74 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. leads the world with 102 million cases and 1,105,204 fatalities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 229.5 million people living in the U.S., equal to 69.1% of the total population, are fully vaccinated, meaning they have had their primary shots.

So far, just 50.7 million Americans, equal to 15.3% of the overall population, have had the updated COVID booster that targets both the original virus and the omicron variants.

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