China’s Tourist Sites Overwhelmed With Crowds After Emerging From Lockdown
A weekend national Chinese holiday called the Qingming Festival witnessed greatly relaxed restrictions across the country even as health authorities fear the coronavirus outbreak isn’t over, and as the potential for a new wave of ‘asymptomatic’ spreaders has health officials worried.
It comes at a moment Beijing is slowly trying to open the economy back up, especially retail, restaurant and consumer-related businesses — but as citizens especially in previously hard-hit provinces show a reluctance to venture back into markets and streets. The major outdoor and mountain parks, however, appear to be a different story.
Starting two weeks ago the main tourist destinations, including city zoos, botanical gardens, and wilderness parks and preserves began opening on a large scale.
Over the weekend popular outdoor destinations, including national parks and tourist sites appeared packed with throngs of people grouped together wearing face masks. This triggered national media controversy and even contradictory messages on the degree to which people should congregate at the parks.
Huangshan mountain park in the Anhui province was one such park that reached its daily capacity of 20,000 people, according to state-run Global Times.
— 自由亚洲电台 (@RFA_Chinese) April 5, 2020
Photographs of the crowds went viral given it could be a sign China is successfully over the Covid-19 hump.
The Global Times reported that the park went so far as to waive the usually steep entrance fee (equivalent to $26.70) in order to promote tourism.
A mere 39 new cases were reported in China Monday, bringing the country total to 82,641 cases including 3,335 deaths. At the peak of the crisis there were thousands of new cases daily.
Interestingly, Beijing officials may be deeply divided on how quickly to open the country back up, given as CNN describes rare contradictory messages were issued to the public over the weekend:
After pictures of the crowds at Huangshan emerged on social media, the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the ruling Communist Party, issued a stern reprimand on social media warning tourists: “Do not gather!”
In a commentary published on the newspaper’s website, one opinion writer said while it was understandable people would want to get out after being shut up in quarantine, now was not the time to stop being “vigilant.”
“If there are asymptomatic carriers present during large-scale gatherings, the consequences would be severe,” the article said.
According to the paper, Huangshan has since announced it will stop receiving tourists.
#Huangshan Mountain, a 5-A tourist attraction in East #China‘s Anhui Province, closed to tourists on Sunday morning due to an overflow of tourists after it exempted its 190 yuan ($26.7) entrance fee to residents of the province to promote tourism amid #COVID19. pic.twitter.com/DAffe2zhI1
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) April 5, 2020
But other bustling scenes of people eager to return to ‘normalcy’ were captured across the country, for example in Shanghai, where the Bund waterfront was filled with shoppers and tourists.
City parks and public spaces in Beijing were also very busy, however, indoor tight-quarter places like theaters have remained closed after a brief attempt in March to open them back up.