New images from inside Beijing’s travel arteries show a stopped Beijing as the battle to contain the coronavirus outbreak brings one of the world’s most populous cities to an eerie halt.
These remarkable images, all taken on March 10 and shared exclusively with Probe International by a source we are not revealing for reasons of safety, show Beijing’s travel arteries – its main airport, subway and railway station – in a state of minimal stirring as aggressive measures to stop the spread of infection remain in place.
A bustling terminal typically, Beijing’s Capital International Airport now lies hushed and empty. People, few in number, all wear masks (airport staff, who could be mistaken for surgeons in their protective gear, have added eye goggles to their uniforms as a further precaution). Travellers when they enter Customs must submit a declaration that they are healthy. The airport’s overflowing dining areas during “peacetime” (as our correspondent refers to pre-outbreak China) are now shuttered for the most part. Two were open on the day these photographs were taken (March 10); one offered discounts to customers. Inside, a young woman writing in her notebook, paused to tell our correspondent she had arrived from Shenzhen City in China’s southeast and considered herself very lucky to be there as many flights had been cancelled. She was hoping to continue on to Toronto the following day, where she works (having returned home for the Spring Festival). Worries over where she will live in Toronto – the city’s Airbnbs are reportedly turning away people from China – preoccupy her. The last photograph shows a sign in green that cautions diners to keep a distance of one meter from each other.
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As people recover, Beijing has regained a faint pulse and a jarring new normal. Schools and most offices are still closed but these photographs of subway travel show masked passengers and a metro patrol inspector as they go about the risky business of getting from A to B. Travellers braving movement from one city to another must self-quarantine or stay by themselves. Our correspondent relayed a story, circulated widely on the Chinese internet, about one man who had driven to another city only to be told he had to keep moving. Denied permission to enter by one city after another, this luckless shut-out was forced to stay on the road in transit for 14 days. At one point, he was given a box of noodles for human “fuel” by police officers (just add water and keep on driving).
Beijing’s railway station continues to operate, albeit weirded by current events, with none of its former buzz. The last photograph depicts an access point to trains via escalators. Signs tell travellers to remove their masks for identification.