A wishing tree has been placed in the Grand Arcade, where people can write messages and prayers for people in ChinaPxfuel

Chinese New Year (CNY) events due to take place this weekend in Cambridge have been partly or fully cancelled in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

A Chinese New Year ceremony at the Lion Yard shopping centre, due to take place tomorrow and include a parade around Cambridge and performances, was cancelled yesterday.

“It is with regret that due to the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus which has now escalated to the UK we feel we are left with no choice but to cancel the Chinese New Year event… I’m sure everyone will agree that this is the right decision to take and our thoughts are with those that are affected by this terrible virus and Chinese community as a whole,” the shopping centre wrote in a Facebook post.

The cancellation was branded “racist” and “xenophobic” by some Facebook users and students.

The shopping centre responded saying this was a decision first made by the members of the Cambridge Chinese Federation (CCF): “we are simply informing you.”

Kerry, the Director of CCF and a first year student at Lucy Cavendish college, told Varsity: “It’s supposed to be a time to celebrate the Chinese New Year, but we are not celebrating right now. We want people to reflect on the situation in China. We want everyone to pray for Chinese people.”

Kerry said that a wishing tree has been placed in the Grand Arcade, where people can write messages and prayers for people in China; “it is touching to see people care and hope that people in China get better. Instead of carrying on with the planned performances, we think this is a more appropriate response to the virus.”

People have written messages to people in China on a wishing tree in Grand ArcadeCambridge Chinese Federation

A few hours after the event at Lion Yard was cancelled, the Fitzwilliam Museum announced that their partner Cambridge China Centre (CCC) had taken the decision to cancel some planned activities, including calligraphy and lantern making workshops, at the CNY event taking place today at the museum.

Varsity has reached out to CCC for comment.

According to The Guardian, some Chinese people living in Europe said they have been the target of racist abuse. One example given was La Repubblica’s publication of a photograph showing a cafe in Rome with a sign outside saying “all people coming from China” were barred from entering.

Two cases of the coronavirus were confirmed in the UK yesterday. Both cases, one a student at the University of York, have been quarantined in a specialist centre in Newcastle.

The York student was staying in a hotel at the time and is not thought to have come into contact with any other students at the University.

Virus experts said they were not surprised to see cases in the UK, but this was no reason to panic.


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The Department of Health said no further positive cases have been confirmed in the UK, as of 2pm Saturday, with 201 people testing negative from 203 tests.

The World Health Organisation declared a global emergency on Thursday, as the number of coronavirus cases surpassed those from the 2003 SARS epidemic.

But the organisation’s Chief Medical Officer said the mortality rate for the new strain of the virus is currently low, at 2% - less than SARS’ 10% and Ebola’s 70%.