Over 1,000 people came to watch the colourful lion dance as it bought in the Year of Rat at Lunar New Year celebrations in Calgary’s Chinatown on Saturday.
But on the minds of many at the big party are those in China whose festivities will be far different this year.
“It’s a bit crazy,” said Wesley Kan, who has family in Hong Kong.
On Saturday, Hong Kong declared the outbreak of a new virus an emergency and will close schools until mid-February. Trains and flights from the city of Wuhan will now be blocked.
“For a city like Hong Kong, it’s a megacity so I understand they want to take precautions just because it’s a city of that size. Anything that comes through there is going to spread like wildfire,” said Norman Mah, who was performing in the lion dance in Calgary.
The outbreak started in Wuhan in central China and has spread to the rest of the country with concern building as people travel for the holiday.
“A lot of people go through Hong Kong. Any area where you have a lot of tourists going back and forth, they have to do something. It’s better to do something than nothing because you don’t want to go through a situation like with SARS where it becomes a global problem,” said Len Chan, who was at the Calgary celebration on Saturday.
Some Calgarians with family in China are in favour of the mass quarantine that is now in place in Wuhan. The government has expanded the lockdown to 16 surrounding cities with a combined population of 50 million people.
“It’s a bit terrifying what’s happening with the health scare. I think it’s probably a good idea. It’s better taking proactive measures like that rather than risking the health of others,” Kan said.
Chinese representatives in Calgary said their government is doing everything possible to contain the virus.
Amidst all the celebrations in Calgary during this uncertain time in China, the message from Chinese officials is one of gratitude and hope.
“People here are very supportive and they show confidence that it is not the end of the world. And as far as we can work together, we can overcome this disease and conquer it,” said Xu.