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COVID lockdown turns Chinese tourist hotspot into nightmare

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Martin Quin Pollard and Eduardo Baptista

People get off a coach at an entrance of Atlantis Sanya resort in Sanya, Hainan province, China, Nov. 25, 2020.
Nov 2020 25 A coach at the entrance of the Atlantis Sanya Resort in Sanya, Hainan Province, China, at day. Photo by Tingshu Wang /Reuters

Beijing/Shanghai—Chinese businessman Yang Jing this year When planning his 2021 summer vacation, she chose the tropical southern island of Hainan.

The island in the South China Sea recorded her only two symptomatic COVID-19-positive cases over the last year. But fast forward to this month, and the number of cases suddenly spiked, prompting a lockdown in Sanya city and stranded tens of thousands of tourists like Yang on the island. Tourist hub Sanya imposed a lockdown on Saturday, restricting transport links in an attempt to stem the epidemic, but about 80,000 visitors enjoyed the beaches during peak season. Many are stuck in hotels until next Saturday.

Yang is staying at a four-star hotel at her own expense with her husband and her child. Her family eats pot her noodles every day to save on her food expenses.

"This is the worst holiday of my life," Yang, in her 40s, who lives in southern China's Jiangxi province, told Reuters on Sunday.

Sanya reported 689 symptomatic and 282 asymptomatic cases from 1 August to 7 August. Other cities around Hainan, including Danzhou, Dongfang, Lingshui and Linao, all reported more than a dozen cases during the same period.

According to data provider Variflight, on Saturday, state broadcaster CCTV, citing state operators, stopped selling train tickets out of Sanya and reduced the number of flights to and from Sanya. More than 80% of his reportedly canceled.

Hainan had not received foreign tourists for the past two and a half years after China stopped issuing tourist visas and implemented strict quarantine rules in response to the pandemic. .

The Sanya government announced Saturday that tourists whose flights have been canceled will be able to book hotel rooms at half price.

However, dozens of tourists took to WeChat groups on Sunday to complain that the hotel did not apply such rules and had to pay a rate similar to the original price. Two stranded tourists told Reuters they were in that situation. “We are currently looking for ways to complain and defend our rights, but so far no public authority has contacted us or shown any interest in us. No," said a woman from eastern China's Jiangsu province, whose surname is Zhou.

Never to return

One foreign tourist who lived in China and was in Sanya on his honeymoon said additional problems for stranded tourists included food Delivery fees, large increases in hotel meal prices, even airfare from Hainan. Food at his hotel is also running low, he said, but did not give his name.

"I just hope it doesn't become another Shanghai," the tourist said, referring to the city's recent draconian two-month lockdown. I was.

The Hainan outbreak is the latest challenge to China's zero-coronavirus policy. 1 million deaths from COVID after a chaotic lockdown in Shanghai undermined China's claim that Beijing's handling of the pandemic was better than other countries like the United States.

Domestic visitors have kept Hainan's tourism industry alive for much of the pandemic, but the sudden lockdown threatens to turn some tourists away entirely. be.

"The bottom line is that we're never coming back," said Zhou, who was on holiday with his six other family members.

Sanya officials said stranded tourists can leave the island from next Saturday if they undergo five COVID tests and all the results are negative.

However, Yang said the wait for test results was long and he had to undergo multiple tests a day.

``We don't know who to talk to. There is only positive news about Sanya on the internet. …as if the whole country thinks so (we) are beneficiaries, not victims,” she said.

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