The Chinese government has said it will improve medical services and supplies in rural areas ahead of next month’s Lunar New Year’s travel rush . A notice released on Saturday said the government would accelerate the production of Covid medicines, allocate more equipment to rural areas, ensure public access to over-the-counter medicines and monitor sales of RAT test kits and fever medication. These measures were “to ensure the supply of essential goods and epidemic control resources in rural areas” and “to protect the lives and health of rural residents to the greatest extent possible”, according to the statement by the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council. This announcement follows the removal of many Covid controls earlier this month, which had created concerns about healthcare systems in rural China, which the State Council said is “vast, populous and thinly resourced”. Beijing has also demanded that local authorities stockpile Covid-19 medicines, strengthen health education for rural residents and step up the drive to vaccinate vulnerable groups. It also highlighted the cooperation between hospitals in rural and urban areas to treat severe cases and “support healthcare facilities” in the countryside. Chinese hospitals are under growing pressure as a result of staff shortages and increasing demand for treatment following the lifting of Covid controls. Lunar New Year, which falls on January 22, will see tens of millions of people travelling back to their hometowns, increasing the risk of the virus spreading. Guo Wanshen, deputy director of the health commission in Henan, one of the provinces with the largest rural populations in China, told state broadcaster CCTV that rural areas are “generally lagging behind urban areas”, but with the coming holiday travel period and further adjustments to the national Covid policy, more places would face a “rapid increase” in cases. The government has also urged hospitals in rural counties to make preparations such as accelerating the construction and upgrading of Intensive Care Units and preparing vehicles for “the timely transfer and admission” of Covid patients.