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A popular tourist attraction in the Anhui province of China was reopened this weekend and then quickly closed to visitors when more than 20,000 flocked to the site.
The Huangshan Mountain range was one of 29 sites within Anhui to begin offering free entry on Saturday after China relaxed some of its coronavirus-prompted closures, though authorities may have underestimated interest. On Sunday, April 5, which also fell within China’s three-day Qingming (or Ching Ming) festival observances, the site reached capacity, and park officials were forced to direct throngs of visitors to other sites, the South China Morning Post reported.
Pictures and video taken at Huangshan over the weekend show people crowding the entrance queue and packing the miles of trails along the mountain range.
According to the Morning Post, visitors were required to wear masks and pass a temperature check before entering the site. They were also required to show proof of good health via an app.
On Monday, a committee that oversees Huangshan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, had said they were trying to control traffic by requiring visitors remain a safe distance apart while traversing the trails, according to China Daily, a state-run Chinese news agency, although it was unclear how those measures would be enforced. The outlet claimed that Huangshan had also recruited more volunteers to help screen tourists.
Some users on China’s Weibo social-networking platform, however, were critical of the province’s decision to allow so many tourists in such close quarters.
“I think China is keeping a close eye on Covid-19 detections and may need to tune the social distancing measures that are needed to keep Covid-19 contained,” said Benjamin Cowling, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Hong Kong University, in a statement to the Morning Post.
The province of Anhui borders Hubei, the province in which the coronavirus was first observed, on the Southwest. Anhui, meanwhile, claims to have only confirmed 990 cases of coronavirus and six deaths, the last confirmed case being diagnosed on Feb. 27, according to the outlet.
A number of residents and social media users, however, have cast doubt on the country’s official tally of COVID-19 cases and deaths, especially in Wuhan, known as the epicenter of the outbreak.