FEARS about the possible spread of the deadly coronavirus forced Chinese New Year celebrations in Woking to be cancelled and have seen the temporary closure of a school teaching Cantonese and Mandarin.

The celebrations were to have been held at the Old Woking Community Centre last Sunday but were called off following the outbreak of the virus, which has spread from Wuhan, in the eastern Chinese province of Hubei, as part of a growing health crisis. More than 6,000 people, mostly in China, have been infected and more than 160 have died.

Clara Chipping, chairman of the Chinese Association of Woking, said the group’s New Year celebrations often include visitors from China and some of the Woking Chinese community have recently returned from business trips or holidays in the country.

She said there was no evidence that the virus had infected any of the association’s 260 members, or anyone else in Woking who had been to China, or who were visiting from that country.

The Chinese New Year celebrations are usually held in the town centre with colourful dances, music, food stalls, martial art displays and other entertainment that draw big crowds from inside and outside the Chinese community.

A lack of volunteers led the association to agree last September to abandon the planned town centre event this year and hold a smaller one in the Old Woking Community Centre.

“Then the virus happened and we had to send notices to all our members telling them the celebrations were cancelled,” Clara said.

“We will be holding the celebrations next year,” she added.

For the full story get the 30 January edition of the News & Mail