These images show what happened when more than 60,000 mostly mask-wearing visitors turned up at a Chinese lakeside scenic area amid the COVID pandemic.
West Lake, a 10,000-hectare UNESCO World Heritage Site in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province in East China, said it welcomed 760,000 visitors over the Qingming Festival long weekend between 4th and 6th April.
The traditional festival, known as Tomb-Sweeping Day, is the first public holiday since the coronavirus outbreak paralysed the country in the middle of Chinese New Year in late January.
The three-day break was a litmus test for Beijing and various municipal governments to see whether national parks and scenic areas could recover its usual figures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
West Lake scenic area, which has 17 fee-collecting tourist sites including zoos, gardens, pagodas and other historical buildings, said visitor numbers dropped by 32 percent when compared to the same time last year.
On Sunday (5th April), some 62,200 people passed through its gates, the park said.
Images from the shores of the lake known in Chinese as ‘Xihu’ show droves of visitors walking its footpaths while mostly still wearing surgical masks.
In comparison, the highest single-day visitor figures recorded across last year’s seven-day ‘Golden Week’ holiday was 759,300.
The park said 165,000 tourists were offered free entry as part of a scheme aimed at encouraging local tourism.
Fang Guoxing, director of the park’s management committee, said an emphasis on online ticket reservations helped reduce congestion as visitors underwent health screenings before entering the grounds.
Using AI and big data analysis, the park would use the past weekend’s experience to decide how to approach the upcoming Labour Day break on 1st May.
The relatively calm scenes at West Lake were in contrast to the viral images coming out of Huangshan National Park in the neighbouring province of Anhui.
There some 20,000 people a day attempted to squeeze through two gates after the scenic area offered free entry, forcing officials to turn visitors away after reaching capacity.
Many tourists were without masks and not adhering to social distancing guidelines as they queued, leading to criticism over the park’s poor planning coming into the long weekend.
China appears to have come through the worst of the coronavirus outbreak, reporting 81,740 cases and 3,331 deaths to date, according to the latest figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Meanwhile, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide has soared to more than 1.3 million, including over 74,800 deaths.
As of Monday (6th April), Zhejiang Province had reported a total of 1,265 confirmed coronavirus cases and one death.
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