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Which pandemic? Crowds sweep across the Great Wall of China during the holiday week

(CNN) – Scene in Great Wall of China Last week was unthinkable only months ago.

Pictures of Beijing attractions last weekend show huge crowds squeezed along the winding wall, squeezed together in close quarters and squeezed into each other through narrow entrances. Most of them wear face masks – but a number of people, including young children, have pulled their masks up to their chins, and it looks like a few of them have left the masks entirely on.

It’s Golden Week – an eight-day national holiday, one of the busiest annual travel periods in China, and a major test for the country as it comes out of Coronavirus pandemic.
ChinaAn official official said virus numbers have remained low since spring. There were a few explosions, including one in Beijing in June, but these were met with immediate lockdowns and mass testing, and the outbreaks were contained within a few weeks.

With nearly zero local transportation, people flocked to bus stations, airports and transit hubs to travel around the country for the holiday, which began on October 1. Local authorities competed to attract tourists, with provincial and municipal governments issuing vouchers for travel and tourism attractions offering free or discounted tickets.

The Great Wall of China has also prepared for the rush of tourists. The most popular section of the wall – Badaling Department It reopened at the end of March, albeit with new restrictions such as requiring visitors to book tickets in advance.
In notice Issued on September 29, the Badaling Special Administrative Region Office – the government agency that administers the Great Wall of China – warned visitors to continue to follow the restrictions during the holiday season.

These restrictions include social distancing by maintaining a distance of 1 meter (about 3.3 feet) between each other. “Assembly is strictly prohibited,” the notice said. Previous guidelines on the Great Wall of China website reminded tourists to wear face masks throughout their entire visit, urging them to “comply with the guidelines and management of the museum staff.”

None of these restrictions appeared to have been closely followed this week as bare-faced tourists crowded together on the wall.

Usually, the Great Wall of China is visited by more than 10 million people every year. The Badaling department, known for its crowd with domestic and international tourists, is so popular that the officials It puts a cap on 65,000 visitors per day As of June 2019.
Tickets for the Badaling section of the Great Wall of China were sold out completely during the Golden Week holiday.

Tickets for the Badaling section of the Great Wall of China were sold out completely during the Golden Week holiday.

Kevin Fryer / Getty Images

When the department reopened in March, the new restrictions limited the number of daily visitors to 30% of its usual capacity. Ahead of the Golden Week celebrations, authorities have raised this cap to 75% of regular capacity, which means a daily limit of 48,750 visitors.

The Golden Week holiday – the longest in China besides the Lunar New Year holiday – has traditionally seen middle-class Chinese people travel abroad in large numbers. But this year, visa restrictions, quarantine requirements, a shortage of international flights and the ongoing threat of Covid-19 mean that Chinese travelers are looking domestically to travel instead.

In just the first four days of the holiday, 425 million domestic tourism trips were made in China – generating more than $ 45 billion in tourism revenue, according to data from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

An employee at a Yellow Crane tourist attraction in Wuhan said last week, “We have seen more tourists this year than in previous years. The number of tourists has doubled every day since we waived entrance fees.” State-run media Global Times.

The easing of restrictions this week and the breach of social distancing rules contrasted starkly with the anxiety that overshadowed the last major travel period for China – the Lunar New Year holiday in late January, as the coronavirus outbreak swept Wuhan.

On January 23, two days before Lunar New Year’s Day, the Chinese government locked down the city of Wuhan – but by then, the virus had already spread across the country and abroad, as hundreds of millions of Chinese traveled for the holiday.

As more information about the virus emerged, Chinese transit centers emptied; Those who still travel usually wear full protective clothing, including plastic gloves, gowns, helmets, face coverings and goggles.

Chen Qianmei, 29, from the southern city of Guangzhou, who traveled to Shanghai last week for the holiday, said the sense of impending danger has largely dissipated now.

“I think China (the virus) is under good control,” she told CNN. “I wear masks and bring alcohol wipes with me to clean my hands, especially before eating – although few people in Shanghai now wear masks.”

CNN’s Nectar Jean contributed to this report.

Harold Manning

"Infuriatingly humble social media ninja. Devoted travel junkie. Student. Avid internet lover."

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