When China removed its quarantine requirements over the weekend, thousands of citizens flocked to the Huangshan mountains in Anhui province, where the government was offering free entry to the three-day Ching Ming festival to help boost tourism, according to reports that originated on Weibo.
Huangshan National Park in China’s eastern province of Anhui (which shares its western border with Hubei province, the initial center of the outbreak) closed its doors on 25 January as the coronavirus epidemic surged in China.
This meant visitors were seen cramming into the national park over the weekend, with tens of thousands of people lining up shoulder-to-shoulder to get in – many choosing not to follow social distancing guidelines or to even cover their faces.
Both gates eventually had to close after visitor numbers peaked at 20,000, with droves of tourists also clogging up pathways inside the mountainous tourist site.
The park has been criticized for its enticing free entrance policy at a time when spreading the disease is still a concern, with Huangshan being one of many scenic areas offering low prices or free entrance to help attract visitors.
Museums and cultural attractions that were closed from late December and early January include the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, the Terracotta Army, as well as malls and other tourist destinations, putting a huge dent in the tourism industry. In mid March, however, several museums in China announced they would reopen to the public, with advanced health and safety measures in place. Now it seems that may have been too much, too soon, as images show security officers holding back crowds at Huangshan, and worries mount that another wave of the virus could take hold.