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

Authorities said public transportation was suspended and people’s movements within the city restricted early Saturday morning. Stranded tourists are required to stay for seven days and pass five tests for Covid-19 before leaving.

Vice Mayor He Shigang said Friday that about 80,000 tourists are still in the city. Provincial authorities said all those currently in Sanya as well as people who had visited the city since July 23 were not allowed to leave Hainan after 6 p.m. local time on Saturday.

The restrictions come at the height of the summer tourism season for the island province, a popular destination often called Chinese Hawaii for its sandy beaches, tropical forests, and upscale hotels.

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

Authorities in Sanya acknowledged the inconvenience to tourists and vowed during a Saturday afternoon press conference to do everything possible to solve problems that arise, including simplifying cancellation of travel reservations and offering half-price discounts on hotel stays for stranded tourists in Sanya.

The city has been divided into high-risk and medium-risk zones, with control measures varying according to the level of risk, according to local officials. However, the entire city was considered under “fixed administration” – an official term used to describe the implementation of lockdown measures.

The city, located at the southern tip of Hainan Island, recorded 827 cases between August 1 and midnight Saturday, including 240 confirmed cases and 173 asymptomatic infections on Saturday, according to an announcement from the province’s health authorities on Sunday morning. China counts asymptomatic and asymptomatic cases separately.

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Saturday’s numbers make the outbreak the most severe in China, which reported a total of 736 locally confirmed and asymptomatic cases nationwide that day.

Authorities said they discovered the highly contagious Omicron BA.5.1.3 sub-component in the outbreak, which they believe spread to the island by contacting overseas seafood traders at Yazhou Fishing Port in Sanya.

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

On Saturday, Hainan provincial authorities also announced provincial-level nucleic acid tests, with cases detected in other parts of the island.

The latest measures come as the Chinese economy struggles under a strict “zero Covid” policy, which aims to suppress the spread of infection through lockdowns, mass testing and strict border controls.

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