Residents of the panic-stricken capital started venturing out of their homes this weekend as they became more confident amid the Sars outbreak. Hundreds of visitors converged on Friday night at Shichahai, central Beijing's chain of imperial lakes. Xiangshan, a hillside park in west Beijing, and the city's botanical gardens also drew near-normal crowds yesterday, halfway through the national Labour Day holiday. Two days earlier, major outdoor destinations were crowd-free and bars filled just a table or two. In the middle of last month, Beijing residents with permission to leave work retreated to their flats, leaving only to stock up on food. During the past week, students who would normally go out on weekends were asked to stay on campus to keep the disease at bay. Some students brought portable stoves into their dormitories to avoid dining halls. Students said this lifestyle fostered friendship and a sense of safety, but also restlessness. People also felt safer outside this weekend than during previous weeks because of an increase in public information about where infections had occurred and how people could protect themselves, said Sun Ling, a reporter in Beijing. The state of mind of most people has become calmer, Ms Sun said. 'For a while it was really panicked. Now they know the sick people are in such and such a place and what medicines to take. So they're starting to go out.' Beijing Internet news portals listed no new quarantine hotspots as of yesterday afternoon, keeping the publicised number at nine. Media also noted no major new cancellations or closures yesterday, focusing instead on lighter stories such as a Xiaotangshan hospital Sars nurse who got married via videophone to avoid contaminating anyone. Attention has also turned to protecting animals, with pet owners imploring neighbourhood committees not to kill pets in response to reports linking the source of infections to animals. But there was a warning to those who ventured outdoors: spitting is a crime punishable by a 100-yuan (HK$94) fine, the Beijing Youth Daily reported.