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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Around 80,000 tourists have been stranded in the popular resort town of Sanya of China tropical island of Hainan after authorities announced lockdown measures to contain an outbreak Covid-19.

Public transport has been suspended and people’s movements within the city have been restricted from early Saturday morning, authorities said. Stranded tourists must stay seven days and complete five Covid-19 tests before leaving.

Deputy Mayor He Shigang said Friday some 80,000 tourists stayed in the city. Anyone currently in Sanya, as well as people who have been in the city since July 23, were not allowed to leave Hainan province after 6 p.m. local time on Saturday, provincial authorities said.

The restrictions come at the height of the summer tourism season for the island province, a popular tourist destination often dubbed China’s Hawaii for its sandy beaches, tropical forests and high-end hotels.

More than 80% of flights from Sanya were canceled on Saturday, according to data from flight-tracking company Variflight. All trains departing from Sanya have been canceled, state broadcaster CCTV said on Saturday.

An empty street in Sanya, 'China's Hawaii' as it imposes Covid lockdown measures on August 6th.

Authorities in Sanya acknowledged the inconvenience to tourists and vowed during a press conference on Saturday afternoon to do their best to solve emerging problems, including streamlining travel booking cancellations and offering half-price discounts on hotel stays to stranded tourists in Sanya.

The city has been divided into high- and medium-risk zones, according to local officials, with control measures varying according to risk level. However, the whole city has been placed under “static management” – an official term used to describe the deployment of lockdown measures.

The city, which lies on the southern tip of Hainan Island, has registered 827 cases between Aug. 1 and midnight on Saturday, including 240 confirmed cases and 173 asymptomatic infections on Saturday, according to a release from provincial health authorities on Sunday morning. China counts symptomatic and asymptomatic cases separately.

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

Authorities said they detected the highly transmissible subvariant Omicron BA.5.1.3 in the outbreak, which they believe was transmitted to the island through contact with foreign seafood traders at the Sanya fishing port in Yazhou.

A second Hainan city, Danzhou, announced partial lockdown measures, according to an official bulletin on Saturday afternoon.

Hainan provincial authorities also announced provincial nucleic acid testing on Saturday as cases were discovered in other parts of the island.

The latest measures come as China’s economy struggles under its strict “zero-Covid” policy, in which it aims to quell the spread of infections through lockdowns, mass testing and tight border controls.

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