April 6 (UPI) -- Throngs of Chinese vacationers are hiking in national parks despite official government warnings against gathering in crowds, according to multiple press reports.
Chinese authorities eased restrictions against movement last month, when the government began to claim the epidemic that began in the central Chinese city of Wuhan was under control.
According to Beijing's official data, there are less than 82,000 cases of the novel coronavirus in the country, and fewer than 3,400 deaths, a number lower than Iran, Britain, France or the United States.
The Chinese government has warned against public gatherings, however, and the mixed messages could be encouraging the general public to take greater liberties following a nationwide shutdown.
Authorities have promoted social distancing measures, but photos uploaded over the weekend on Chinese social media indicate tens of thousands of tourists are inundating popular attractions, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap's Beijing correspondent.
On Weibo, Chinese users uploaded pictures and videos of crowds gathering at West Lake in Hangzhou. Others posted pictures of people hiking up Huangshan, a mountain range in Anhui Province in eastern China.
The pictures quickly went viral and commenters were quick to condemn the people ignoring social distancing measures.
"Although the COVID-19 pandemic has stabilized in China, places are already full of tourists," one Chinese commenter said. "They appear to be wishing for the resurgence of the virus."
In Anhui, visitors were encouraged to travel to sites by the provincial government, which had been granting free entry to 29 locations, the South China Morning Post reported.
Before being admitted to parks, people were required to report their health status, wear masks and have their body temperature checked, according to the report.
The provincial government decided to close the parks on Sunday.
Chinese authorities may have been concerned extending restrictions against travel would have an impact on the local economy.