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Harbin Snow and Ice Festival: Still open but events canceled due to Covid outbreaks

(CNN) — The 37th annual Harbin Snow and Ice Festival is continuing on as planned, although with modifications due to new outbreaks of coronavirus nearby.
The winter festival, which is a huge event in the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin in Heilongjiang province, has drawn travelers from around China and the world every December and January since 1985.

The festival going ahead as planned had been hailed as a mark of China’s success in containing and controlling the coronavirus. Many restrictions have been lifted throughout the country, with residents able to travel freely within China’s borders.

Now, though, small outbreaks in the nearby cities of Shenyang and Dalian have resulted in a change of plans. While the festival is still open and visitors can buy tickets to walk through and check out the works of ice art, events and performances have been canceled. That included a planned group wedding ceremony that was supposed to take place on January 5. An event organizer confirmed the changes to CNN.

Ice sculptures at the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival in northeastern China's Heilongjiang province on January 5, 2021.

Ice sculptures at the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival in northeastern China’s Heilongjiang province on January 5, 2021.

STR/AFP/Getty Images

“All visitors need to strengthen precautions, present their health codes when entering the park, get their temperature measured, wear masks at all times, and keep a [safe] distance from others in the park,” read a statement shared on the festival’s social media pages on December 29.

New Year’s Eve celebrations and a fireworks display were also called off.

The health codes mentioned in the statement refer to the app that everyone in China must have on their phones to verify that they are free of Covid-19. The app is also used for contact tracing in case someone becomes ill. Restrictions for domestic travel began lifting in some provinces as early as April 2020.

The annual festival is the world’s largest of its kind.

Every year, workers pull blocks of ice out of the Songhua River, which artists use as the material for their creations. Pressure is always on to outdo the year before, and 2021’s highlights include a “crystal palace,” a 220-square-foot fully functional “ice bar” and a scale model of China’s first aircraft carrier made entirely out of snow.

Beijing will be hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics in conjunction with the snowy northern city of Zhangjiakou, making the Chinese capital the first city ever to host both a Winter and Summer Games.

CNN’s Hannah Zheng in Beijing also contributed reporting.

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