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People wearing face masks walk under a canopy decorated with spinning colored fans for a canceled Lunar New Year temple fair at Longtan Park in Beijing, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. China's most festive holiday began in the shadow of a worrying new virus Saturday as the death toll surpassed 40, an unprecedented lockdown kept 36 million people from traveling and authorities canceled a host of Lunar New Year events. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein) — Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Prayers and celebrations: China welcomes 'Year of the Rat' amid deepening health crisis

Outbreak of coronavirus puts a damper on Lunar New Year celebrations in the country.
Updated Jan 25, 2020 08:52pm

China's biggest holiday, the Lunar New Year, unfolded in the shadow of the worrying new virus. Authorities cancelled a host of Lunar New Year events and closed major tourist sites and movie theatres.

An empty road is seen on the first day of the Lunar New Year in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on January 25, 2020, during a deadly virus outbreak which began in the city. — AFP
An empty road is seen on the first day of the Lunar New Year in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on January 25, 2020, during a deadly virus outbreak which began in the city. — AFP

People wearing protective facemasks to help stop the spread of a deadly SARS-like virus which originated in the central city of Wuhan, stand in front of the closed gate of the Lama Temple in Beijing on January 25, 2020. — AFP
People wearing protective facemasks to help stop the spread of a deadly SARS-like virus which originated in the central city of Wuhan, stand in front of the closed gate of the Lama Temple in Beijing on January 25, 2020. — AFP

Security guards wearing protective facemasks to help stop the spread of a deadly SARS-like virus which originated in the central city of Wuhan, stand in front of the closed Ditan Park in Beijing on January 25, 2020. — AFP
Security guards wearing protective facemasks to help stop the spread of a deadly SARS-like virus which originated in the central city of Wuhan, stand in front of the closed Ditan Park in Beijing on January 25, 2020. — AFP

With Chinese authorities afraid that public gatherings will hasten the spread of the virus, the outbreak put a damper on Lunar New Year. Temples locked their doors, Beijing's Forbidden City, Shanghai Disneyland and other major tourist destinations closed, and people cancelled restaurant reservations ahead of the holiday, normally a time of family reunions, sightseeing trips, fireworks displays and other festivities in the country of 1.4 billion people.

People wearing face masks pose for photos with decorations for a cancelled Lunar New Year temple fair at Longtan Park in Beijing on January 25, 2020. — AP
People wearing face masks pose for photos with decorations for a cancelled Lunar New Year temple fair at Longtan Park in Beijing on January 25, 2020. — AP

A man pushes a child in a stroller wearing a face mask past decorations for a cancelled Lunar New Year temple fair at Longtan Park in Beijing on January 25, 2020. — AP
A man pushes a child in a stroller wearing a face mask past decorations for a cancelled Lunar New Year temple fair at Longtan Park in Beijing on January 25, 2020. — AP

Policemen wearing protective facemasks to help stop the spread of a deadly SARS-like virus which originated in the central city of Wuhan, are seen in front of the closed gate of the Lama Temple in Beijing on January 25, 2020. — AFP
Policemen wearing protective facemasks to help stop the spread of a deadly SARS-like virus which originated in the central city of Wuhan, are seen in front of the closed gate of the Lama Temple in Beijing on January 25, 2020. — AFP

A worker dismantles a carnival built for a canceled Lunar New Year temple fair at Longtan Park in Beijing on January 25, 2020. — AP
A worker dismantles a carnival built for a canceled Lunar New Year temple fair at Longtan Park in Beijing on January 25, 2020. — AP

Picture uploaded to social media on January 25, 2020 by the Central Hospital of Wuhan show medical staff holding Chinese Lunar New Year signs, in Wuhan, China. — Reuters
Picture uploaded to social media on January 25, 2020 by the Central Hospital of Wuhan show medical staff holding Chinese Lunar New Year signs, in Wuhan, China. — Reuters

Prayers and celebrations were held in other countries, however. Indonesia, Japan, North Korea, Cuba, among other countries, held colourful parades, firework displays and prayers to welcome the Year of the Rat.

A man lights a candle during Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations at a temple in Jakarta, Indonesia on January 25, 2020. — Reuters
A man lights a candle during Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations at a temple in Jakarta, Indonesia on January 25, 2020. — Reuters

Children play with a skipping rope on Kim Il Sung Square as part of festivities on the first day of the Lunar New Year in Pyongyang, North Korea on January 25, 2020. — AFP
Children play with a skipping rope on Kim Il Sung Square as part of festivities on the first day of the Lunar New Year in Pyongyang, North Korea on January 25, 2020. — AFP

People pray during the Lunar New Year at a temple in Kandal Province, Cambodia on January 25, 2020. — AFP
People pray during the Lunar New Year at a temple in Kandal Province, Cambodia on January 25, 2020. — AFP

People pray during the Lunar New Year at a temple in Kandal Province, Cambodia on January 25, 2020. — AFP
People pray during the Lunar New Year at a temple in Kandal Province, Cambodia on January 25, 2020. — AFP

People pray during the Lunar New Year at a temple in Kandal Province, Cambodia on January 25, 2020. — AFP
People pray during the Lunar New Year at a temple in Kandal Province, Cambodia on January 25, 2020. — AFP

People hold sugar canes as they pray during the Lunar New Year at a temple in Kandal Province, Cambodia on January 25, 2020. — AFP
People hold sugar canes as they pray during the Lunar New Year at a temple in Kandal Province, Cambodia on January 25, 2020. — AFP

People watch a lion dance team perform outside a Chinese temple on the first day of the Lunar New Year of the Rat in Banda Aceh, Indonesia on January 25, 2020. — AFP
People watch a lion dance team perform outside a Chinese temple on the first day of the Lunar New Year of the Rat in Banda Aceh, Indonesia on January 25, 2020. — AFP

Lion dance team members wearing masks prepare to perform outside a Chinese temple on the first day of the Lunar New Year of the Rat in Banda Aceh, Indonesia on January 25, 2020. — AFP
Lion dance team members wearing masks prepare to perform outside a Chinese temple on the first day of the Lunar New Year of the Rat in Banda Aceh, Indonesia on January 25, 2020. — AFP

A man prays at a Chinese temple on the first day of the Lunar New Year of the Rat in Banda Aceh, Indonesia on January 25, 2020. — AFP
A man prays at a Chinese temple on the first day of the Lunar New Year of the Rat in Banda Aceh, Indonesia on January 25, 2020. — AFP

A woman prays at a Chinese temple on the first day of the Lunar New Year of the Rat in Banda Aceh, Indonesia on January 25, 2020. — AFP
A woman prays at a Chinese temple on the first day of the Lunar New Year of the Rat in Banda Aceh, Indonesia on January 25, 2020. — AFP

A man prays during Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations at a temple in Jakarta, Indonesia on January 25, 2020. — Reuters
A man prays during Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations at a temple in Jakarta, Indonesia on January 25, 2020. — Reuters

Dancers from the Cuban Wushu Association return home after performing during the ceremony to welcome the Chinese New Year in Havana, Cuba on January 24, 2020. — AP
Dancers from the Cuban Wushu Association return home after performing during the ceremony to welcome the Chinese New Year in Havana, Cuba on January 24, 2020. — AP

Local Chinese people pose for a photo in front of a lion dance troupe during a celebration to mark the Lunar New Year at Chinatown on January 25, 2020, in Yangon, Myanmar. — AP
Local Chinese people pose for a photo in front of a lion dance troupe during a celebration to mark the Lunar New Year at Chinatown on January 25, 2020, in Yangon, Myanmar. — AP

A performer blows fire during Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations in Chinatown, Binondo, Manila, Philippines on January 25, 2020. — Reuters
A performer blows fire during Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations in Chinatown, Binondo, Manila, Philippines on January 25, 2020. — Reuters

A dancer from the Cuban Wushu Association prepares for his performance before the ceremony to welcome the Chinese New Year in Havana, Cuba on January 24, 2020. — AP
A dancer from the Cuban Wushu Association prepares for his performance before the ceremony to welcome the Chinese New Year in Havana, Cuba on January 24, 2020. — AP


Header image: People wearing face masks walk under a canopy decorated with spinning coloured fans for a cancelled Lunar New Year temple fair at Longtan Park in Beijing on January 25, 2020. — AP