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Coronavirus turns busy Chinese cities into ghost towns




After making sure everyone’s face mask is on and sanitizer is to hand, the Qiao family heads out to Jingshan Park, a former royal sanctuary beside the Forbidden City in China’s capital Beijing.

Snow has fallen for a second day, a rare event in the city of 21.5 million that would normally bring hundreds of thousands of people out to take photos and play. But the streets are empty and the parks are so quiet the only sound is of birds chirping.

It’s not just Beijing. Shanghai, China’s financial hub, and other cities in the world’s most populous nation have turned into ghost towns after the government extended a holiday and asked residents not to go out because of the coronavirus.

“We know the situation of the coronavirus is severe. But the epicenter is far away, so we think it should be fine here … It’s a God-given chance to enjoy this family moment with snow and without work,” said Mr Qiao, who has an 11-year-old daughter.

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The epidemic has killed 722 people and infected nearly 32,000 in China as of Feb 8. More than three-quarters of the cases are in the central Hubei province where the virus originated – more than 1,000 km (620 miles) from Beijing.

Only a few people are brave enough to come out. A security guard at Jingshan Park said there were less than a third of the number of tourists than usual, even with the rare snowfall.

Even at one of the best spots for snapping photos of snowy Beijing just outside the Forbidden City, there’s barely a crowd, while the usual tour buses and groups of people speaking different dialects are nowhere to be seen.

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