China’s week-long National Day holiday got under way on Thursday, as millions of people across the country put the coronavirus pandemic to the back of their minds and headed for their favourite tourist spots.
With overseas travel still off the menu for most, domestic attractions proved the biggest draws. In Beijing, hundreds of people arrived early in the morning at the Temple of Heaven, though most ignored the advice of the Chinese Centre of Disease Control and Prevention, which said people should wear face masks and observe social-distancing rules.
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A similar disregard for the CDC’s recommendations was seen in a report by state broadcaster CCTV that showed large crowds of people milling around without masks at a railway station in Nanchang, east China’s Jiangxi province.
The railway authority said it expected to handle 14.8 million passengers on Thursday, the network’s busiest day since the start of the global health crisis.
The nation’s roads were also busy, with people sharing videos on social media of huge traffic jams. With their cars motionless, the footage showed day trippers passing the time practising their tai chi or even fishing from bridges.
In Wuhan, the central China city where the coronavirus was first detected, authorities said the popular Yellow Crane Tower attraction was set to welcome 25,000 visitors on Thursday, which marks not only National Day but also the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Online travel agency Ctrip said it expected 600 million trips to be made across China over the course of the holiday.
To kick start the festivities, Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday evening hosted a dinner for about 500 guests at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
Before the start of the meal, Premier Li Keqiang spoke of the country’s success in containing Covid-19, which has killed more than 1 million people around the world.
China’s leaders had earlier taken part in an annual tribute in which flowers are placed at the Monument to the People’s Heroes in Tiananmen Square. None of them wore face masks, even though all of the journalists covering the event were required to take a Covid-19 test 12 hours beforehand.
Neither erstwhile president Hu Jintao nor former premier Wen Jiabao attended the dinner, but Meng Jianzhu – a former Communist Party chief in charge of security – and Wu Shengli – an ex-naval commander – both of whom have been embroiled in scandals did.
It was the first time either Meng or Wu, both of whom stepped down from their positions in 2017, had been seen in public for months. Meng’s protégé Sun Lijun is under investigation for alleged corruption and Wu is reported to be the target of an official state audit.
More from South China Morning Post:
- China’s golden week holiday: a welcome getaway for some, coronavirus anxiety for others
- Ready. Set. Holiday: China’s golden week travellers head for wide open spaces
- Coronavirus: home-made origami face masks may fit better than commercial ones, study suggests
This article Coronavirus: China’s National Day-trippers shun face masks, social-distancing rules first appeared on South China Morning Post