Sanya Covid lockdown: thousands of tourists stranded in ‘China’s Hawaii’

Sanya Covid lockdown: thousands of tourists stranded in 'China's Hawaii'
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Public transport has been halted and people’s movement within the city has been restricted since Saturday morning, officials said. Indoor tourists are required to stay seven days and undergo five Covid-19 tests before departure.

Deputy Mayor He Shigang said on Friday that about 80,000 tourists remained in the city. Those currently in Sanya, as well as those in the city since July 23, were not allowed to leave Hainan after 6pm local time on Saturday, provincial officials said.

The restrictions come at the height of the summer tourist season for the island state, a popular destination often called China’s Hawaii for its sandy beaches, rainforests and high-end hotels.

More than 80% of flights from Sanya were canceled on Saturday, according to flight tracking company Variflight. On Saturday, state broadcaster CCTV said all trains departing from Sanya were cancelled.

Officials in Sanya acknowledged the concern for tourists and vowed during a press conference Saturday afternoon to do everything they could to address the issues, including making it easier to cancel travel bookings and offering half-price discounts on hotel stays for tourists stranded in Sanya.

According to local officials, the city was divided into high and medium risk zones, with control measures varying depending on the level of risk. However, the entire city was deemed to be under “static control” – an official term used to describe the imposition of lockdown measures.

The city, on the southern tip of Hainan Island, had recorded 827 cases from August 1 to midnight on Saturday, including 240 confirmed cases on Saturday and 173 asymptomatic infections, provincial health authorities said in a statement on Sunday morning. China counts symptomatic and asymptomatic cases separately.

Saturday’s figures make the outbreak worst in China, which reported a total of 736 confirmed and asymptomatic local cases nationwide for the day.

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Authorities said they detected the highly transmissible Omicron BA.5.1.3 subvariant in Sanya’s Yazhou fishing port in the outbreak, which they believe spread to the island through contact with overseas seafood dealers.

On Saturday, authorities in Hainan province announced statewide nucleic acid testing for its 10 million people as cases were also reported in other parts of the island.

Another city in Hainan, Danzhou, announced partial lockdown measures for its nearly 1 million residents on Saturday afternoon, according to an official bulletin, while authorities in Qionghai announced a series of measures on Sunday, closing most non-essential businesses and ordering half of them to stay. One million residents will stay at home unless necessary, effective that morning, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

The latest measures come as China’s economy struggles under a tough “zero-Covid” policy aimed at curbing the spread of the infection through lockdowns, mass testing and strict border controls.

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