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.
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 regional and municipal governments issuing vouchers for travel and tourism attractions offering free or discounted tickets.
Chinese tourists crowd at an entrance in a section of the Great Wall of China on October 4.
Kevin Fryer / Getty Images
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 directions and management of the museum staff.”
None of these restrictions were closely followed this week as bare-faced tourists huddled together against the wall.
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, 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 alongside 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 continuing 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.
This week’s easing of restrictions and the breach of social distancing rules contrasts 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 Wuhan – but by that time, the virus had already spread across the country and beyond, as hundreds of millions of Chinese traveled for the holiday.
As more information about the virus emerged, Chinese transit centers emptied; Those still traveling were usually wearing full protective gear, including plastic gloves, gowns, helmets, face coverings and goggles.
Chen Qianmei, a 29-year-old 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 carry alcohol wipes to clean my hands, especially before eating – although few people in Shanghai now wear masks.”
CNN’s Nectar Jean contributed to this report.