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Chinese vacation mecca Sanya is under COVID lockdown, making it a nightmare for stranded visitors

Image: Reuters Berita 24 English - Yang Jing, a Chinese businesswoman, decided to spend her summer vacation in 2021 on the tropical island o...

Image: Reuters

Berita 24 English - Yang Jing, a Chinese businesswoman, decided to spend her summer vacation in 2021 on the tropical island of Hainan due of its nearly spotless COVID history.

Only two positive symptomatic COVID-19 cases were reported on the island in the South China Sea the entire previous year. But as of last month, there have been an unexpectedly high number of cases, leading to a lockdown in Sanya and trapping tens of thousands of tourists like Yang on the island.

Even as over 80,000 visitors were enjoying its beaches during peak season, Sanya, the island's main tourism hub, declared a lockdown on Saturday and curtailed transit links to attempt to stem the outbreak. Many are currently confined to hotels until the next Saturday, if not longer.

Yang is staying at a four-star hotel with her husband and child and paying for everything out of their own pockets. To save money on food, the family eats pot noodles every day.

Yang, a woman in her 40s who resides in Jiangxi Province in southern China, told Reuters on Sunday, "This is the worst vacation of my life."

Between August 1 and August 7, Sanya reported 689 symptomatic and 282 asymptomatic cases. Over a dozen cases have also been reported in nearby cities like Danzhou, Dongfang, Lingshui, and Lingao during the same time frame.

According to state broadcaster CCTV, which cited the national operator, the sale of rail tickets out of Sanya was halted on Saturday, while data source Variflight claimed that more than 80% of flights to and from Sanya had been cancelled.

Since China stopped granting tourist visas in reaction to the pandemic and put tight quarantine regulations into place, Hainan has been off-limits to foreign visitors for the past two and a half years.

The municipality of Sanya declared on Saturday that travellers who had their flights cancelled would be allowed to reserve hotel rooms at a discounted rate.

Numerous visitors, however, lamented in WeChat groups on Sunday that their hotels were not enforcing this regulation and that they were still had to pay rates close to the original costs. Such a situation was disclosed to Reuters by two stranded vacationers.

One of the tourists, a woman from the Jiangsu region of eastern China who only revealed her last name as Zhou, said, "We are now looking for ways to complain and defend our rights, but so far no official entity has contacted us or taken any interest in us."


Another problem for trapped tourists, according to a foreign traveller from China who was in Sanya for his honeymoon, was the steep price increases in food delivery fees, hotel meal costs, and aeroplane tickets out of Hainan. He claimed that food supplies at his hotel were also getting low while declining to give his identity.

The visitor expressed his hope that it wouldn't become another Shanghai, alluding to that city's recent brutal, two-month lockdown.

After the chaotic lockdown in Shanghai undermined Beijing's claim that its management of the epidemic was superior to other countries like the United States, which has recorded over a million COVID deaths, the outbreak in Hainan represents the most recent test of China's zero-COVID strategy.

Domestic travellers have kept the Hainan tourism business afloat for a large portion of the pandemic, but this sudden closure runs the danger of pushing some visitors away permanently.

Zhou, who was on vacation with six other family members, exclaimed, "In short, we will never return!

Authorities in Sanya have announced that stranded travellers will be able to leave the island beginning next Saturday, provided they have completed five COVID tests and received negative results for each and every one of them.

Yang claimed that because of the lengthy wait times for test results, she has been taking multiple tests every day.

The Sanya city government has successfully relocated the 80,000 stranded visitors, for example, as though the entire country considers that (we) are not victims, but beneficiaries. "We don't know who to go to," she remarked.

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