China COVID: Sanya closure locks up thousands of holidaymakers

But since the weekend, what started as a leisurely escape has become a stressful travel nightmare for tens of thousands of vacationers, trapped in a sudden lockdown imposed by the authorities to curb the escalating Covid-19 outbreak.

Driven by the highly contagious variant Omicron – which authorities blame for calling overseas seafood traders at the fishing port – the outbreak has infected more than 1,200 people in Sanya since August 1. Hainan, infecting more than 200 others.

This is a major outbreak by the standards of China’s no-Covid policy, which aims to quickly stamp out domestic explosions through sudden shutdowns, mass testing, extensive contact tracing and quarantine.

On Saturday, the Sanya government hastily closed the city of one million people, including about 80,000 tourists. Visitors wishing to leave must show five negative Covid tests taken over a seven-day period, and authorities have not said when the measures will be lifted.

Public transportation was suspended, people’s movements within the city were restricted to emergency services, and transportation was grounded.

More than 80% of flights departing from Sanya on Saturday were canceled, according to data from flight tracker Variflight. State broadcaster CCTV said on Saturday that all trains departing from the city were also cancelled.

The sudden mass cancellation of flights led to scenes of chaos at the airport on Saturday, when some passengers who had already boarded were ordered to disembark, according to state media reports.

A video widely circulated on Chinese social media shows a local official trying in vain to please dozens of frustrated travelers outside an airport police station.

The official, speaking over a loudspeaker, promised the government free food and hotel accommodations for travelers stranded at the airport, as a ring of police officers stood around and pushed the crowds.

“I want to go home! Go home! Go home!” The crowd cheered in response.

A medical worker performs a Covid test for a child on August 7 in Sanya.

Forced stays

China’s borders have been closed to international tourists since the beginning of the epidemic, which means hot spots like Sanya rely more on domestic travelers.

The Sanya government said on Saturday that tourists whose flights have been canceled can book discounted hotel rooms. But for some families, a week of forced stay may still be expensive — especially since the Chinese economy has been hit by the lack of Covid.

On Sunday, state-run news website The Paper reported that a family of 13 from the southwestern city of Chengdu would need to spend about $26,600 for an additional week at their five-star hotel, including a fee of more than $100 per person for lunch and buffets. dinner.

The report caused an uproar on Chinese social media, with a related hashtag attracting 270 million views on Chinese microblogging site Weibo as of Monday afternoon. Many of the comments expressed sympathy with the family, while others questioned why they had not moved to a cheaper hotel. After the protest, the family said they had access to cheaper dining options at the hotel.

Other social media posts of tourists trapped in Sanya accused some hotels of raising their prices to take advantage of forced stays. In a press conference Sunday, the Sanya government pledged to look into the complaints.

It said more than 3,200 tourists stranded at the airport on Saturday will be given seven days of accommodation and food. Officials added that about 5,000 workers have been sent to Hainan from other parts of the country to help with the mass Covid testing campaign.

When will it end?

For many stranded tourists, the biggest concern is whether they will be allowed to leave after seven days. They fear the lockdown could be extended if the number of infections rises despite the restrictions.

Schools in China are scheduled to reopen after the summer holidays within three weeks, and some businesses You may not allow employees to work remotely for weeks on end.

On Monday, Sanya Airport canceled all 418 of its flights, according to the flight-tracking website Variflight.

Shanghai fears new lockdown as millions tested for Covid in sweltering heat

Among the stranded tourists were Shanghai residents who went to Hainan for their summer vacation afterwards continuous A grueling two-month shutdown in the Chinese financial hub earlier this year.

A foreign resident in Shanghai who arrived in Sanya on July 26 said he had to leave his hotel last Thursday because the local government requested it as a quarantine facility. He said the hotel only gave him a day’s notice and left him to look for alternative accommodation.

For the past five days, he said, he had waited in long queues for six tests for Covid.

“This situation in the future is not sustainable,” said the tourist, who asked not to be named for fear of a national backlash. “It’s a bit like Russian roulette where you go and whether or not that area is going to close.”

For many travelers who are aware of the country’s Covid restrictions, Hainan has been deemed a safe place due to In the past, it has reported very few cases.

Other tourist attractions have recently been subjected to sudden closures as well. Last month, more than 2,000 tourists were stranded in the southern Chinese resort of Beihai, after more than 500 infections were closed.

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