Photos from the Lunar New Year show how the Wuhan coronavirus turned China’s biggest party into a washout

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A composite image showing two views of Ditan Park in central Beijing, China. The left image shows a bustling celebration of the 2019 Lunar New Year, while the right shows the deserted square in 2020 after authorities cancelled their event because of a coronavirus outbreak. Reuters/Business Insider
  • The novel coronavirus outbreak has affected one of the most important cultural holidays in the Chinese culture: Lunar New Year.
  • After unprecedented quarantines were imposed throughout the country, people are prevented from travelling to see their families during the holiday.
  • Here are photos comparing last year’s celebration – complete with Chinese lions, historical dances, and family time – to this year.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more.

The novel coronavirus outbreak in China began in tandem with a significant holiday in the Chinese culture: the Lunar New Year.

Parts of China went under unprecedented quarantines in hopes of stemming the spread of the disease, known as 2019-nCoV, affecting nearly 50 million people in the country.

The Lunar New Year celebration traditionally calls for parades, outdoor festivals, and lanterns throughout the city, as people gather with their families to celebrate the annual holiday.

But in light of the Wuhan coronavirus that has killed 170 people and infected more than 7,900 as of Thursday, cities around the country are forced to cancel one of the most important cultural events of the year.

Here are photos comparing last year’s celebration – complete with Chinese lions, historical dances, and family time – to this year.


2019: Crowds gather in Ditan Park in Beijing, China.

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People mingle in Ditan Park on the first day of the Lunar New Year of the Pig in Beijing, China, February 5, 2019. Thomas Peter/Reuters

2020: Ditan Park is eerily empty as workers took down the lantern decorations after the Lunar New Year celebration was cancelled.

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Workers dismantle decorations after the temple fair for the Chinese Lunar New Year in Ditan Park was cancelled in Beijing, China January 24, 2020. Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

2019: Signs with the Chinese character “Fu,” which means “Good luck,” hang in the Forbidden City.

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A visitor takes a selfie next to a Chinese character ‘Fu’, which means ‘Good luck’, during a museum exhibition to mark the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year in the Forbidden City in Beijing, China January 30, 2019. Jason Lee/Reuters

2020: Doctors hold up the same sign in the hospital while treating coronavirus patients.


2019: Folk artists perform a traditional lion dance.

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Folk artists perform a lion dance at an event to celebrate the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year at Pu county in Linfen, Shanxi province, China January 29, 2019. Picture taken January 29, 2019. Reuters

2020: A Chinese tourist wearing a mask is flanked by two lions at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Thailand.

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A Chinese tourist wears a mask as she arrives at Suvarnabhumi Airport during a welcome ceremony of Chinese Lunar New Year travellers in Bangkok, Thailand January 22, 2020. Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters

2019: Tourists can be seen in the Forbidden City during the Lunar New Year.

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Visitors are seen during a museum exhibition to mark the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year in the Forbidden City in Beijing, China January 30, 2019. Jason Lee/Reuters

2020: Police wearing masks stand in front of the Tiananmen Gate outside of the Forbidden City.

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Police officers wearing protective masks are seen in front of the Tiananmen Gate in Beijing, China January 24, 2020. Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

2019: Passengers travelling for the Lunar New Year pack into the Hengyang Railway Station.

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Train passengers travelling during the Spring Festival travel rush ahead of Chinese Lunar New Year arrive at the Hengyang Railway Station in Hunan province, China January 30, 2019. Stringer/Reuters

2020: Passengers are getting screened for the coronavirus at the Hangzhou Railway Station.


2019: Performers are seen outside a temple after re-enacting a Chinese New Year Qing Dynasty ceremony.

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Performers rest after a rehearsal of a re-enactment of a Chinese New Year Qing Dynasty ceremony at the Temple of Earth in Ditan Park in Beijing, China, February 4, 2019. Thomas Peter/Reuters

2020: People stand outside the gate of a temple that was closed for safety concerns following the coronavirus outbreak.

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People stand in front of the closed gate of Lama Temple, with a notice saying that the temple is closed for safety concerns following the outbreak of a new coronavirus on its gate, in Beijing, China January 24, 2020. Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

2019: A woman prays with incense in her hands.

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A woman lights incense while praying in a Chinese temple during the celebration of the Lunar New Year in Chinatown in Bangkok, Thailand February 4, 2019. Jorge Silva/Reuters

2020: Two men, one of whom is wearing a mask, do the same.

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Men pray during Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations at a temple in Jakarta, Indonesia, January 25, 2020. Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana/Reuters