COVID-19 seems like a distant memory for the millions of Chinese who used the following public holidays on May 1 to visit the country’s most popular tourist sites.
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Beijing’s historic alleys, like the Forbidden City and parks, were teeming with visitors on Tuesday. Some did not even wear a mask and others were content to have it under their chin.
Tourists have also taken over Shanghai’s most popular spots, taking selfies with the towering skyscrapers in the background.
In Wuhan, where the first cases of the coronavirus appeared at the end of 2019, thousands of maskless revelers danced together, without respecting physical distancing measures, during the open-air Strawberry music festival.
China, which recorded record growth in the first quarter with a gross domestic product (GDP) up 18.3%, has managed to curb the pandemic since mid-2020 thanks to strict containment and control measures for its borders. The country recorded 17 new cases on Tuesday, all of travelers quarantined upon their return from abroad, authorities said.
Life has returned to its normal course and outbreaks are rare as the pandemic flares up in neighboring India.
The number of flights to foreign countries being limited and quarantine mandatory on return, holidays outside the borders are almost excluded.
Travel booking site Ctrip estimates that 200 million people took advantage of the five holidays, which end on Wednesday, to travel across China. It saw hotel bookings up more than 40% from the pre-pandemic period as the price of flights increased from 2019.
Chinese authorities still fear a resurgence of the virus, however. They called on tourist attractions to limit the number of visitors and demanded that travelers register in advance.
“The virus has been well controlled, and now the vaccine has already been released, so I feel relatively safe,” said Zhang, a resident of Shijiazhuang in northern Hebei province who visited Beijing.
Zhao Mengyu, a high school student from the suburbs of Beijing who came to walk in the capital, said he was “lucky”.
“If we were abroad, we might not be able to get out … we wouldn’t feel free and on top of that it could be quite dangerous.”