20,000 Tourists Flock To Chinese National Park After Free Entry Offered
Video footage shows the moment 20,000 tourists in China packed into a national park after free entry was offered.
Huangshan National Park in China's eastern province of Anhui closed its doors on 25 January as the coronavirus epidemic surged in China.
Less than a month later, on 21 February the park began welcoming visitors again - but slashed the number of people allowed in by reducing its usual 50,000-visitor capacity to 20,000.
However, recently the 190 RMB (£21) entrance fee usually charged for the Huangshan scenic area - also called the Yellow Mountains - was waived for Anhui residents, in a bid to boost the tourism industry, which has been hit hard by the effects of Covid-19.
This meant visitors were seen cramming into the national park over the weekend, with tens of thousands of people queuing shoulder-to-shoulder to get in - many choosing not to adhere to social distancing guidelines or to 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's official Weibo account issued a number of statements over the long weekend, as the country celebrated Qingming Festival - also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day - on 4 April.
It had been ferrying 5,300 tourists to its ticket gates every hour using 120 shuttle buses, before it started encouraging people to visit other sites nearby after it hit 80 percent capacity at 9.22am that day.
Just an hour later, the ticket gates then closed as the full 20,000 capacity was reached, forcing officials to begin turning tourists away.
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Huangshan National Park also issued an apology to the large crowds unable to enter, saying the flow of visitors had been slowed down due to health screening requirements, as each visitor had to present their health status and undergo temperature tests.
Those with symptoms were immediately turned away.
The park has been criticised 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.
Between 1 and 14 April, residents of Anhui can visit 31 scenic areas in or around Huangshan free of charge.
The province - which borders Covid-19 epicentre Hubei - has reported 990 cases and six deaths, with Anhui's last new infection being reported on 27 February.
In a statement on 5 April, Huangshan National Park said it would continue to enforce mask-wearing and social distancing where possible by increasing its number of volunteers.
In a bid to help stop tourists gathering in large numbers, the park also said it would improve crowd flow and control.
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Featured Image Credit: AsiaWire