The Covid lockdown has turned Chinese tourism hotspot Sanya into a nightmare for stranded tourists

The Covid lockdown has turned Chinese tourism hotspot Sanya into a nightmare for stranded tourists
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People are seen outside a restaurant in Houhai Village, Sanya, China’s Hainan Province, Nov. 26, 2020. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang/File photo

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BEIJING/SHANGHAI, Aug 7 (Reuters) – When Chinese businessman Yang Jing was planning this year’s summer vacation in 2021, he chose the tropical southern island of Hainan because of its perfect Covid track record.

The South China Sea island recorded only two positive symptomatic COVID-19 cases in the whole of last year. But fast-forward to this month, and the number of cases has suddenly increased, prompting a lockdown in the city of Sania and stranding thousands of tourists like Yang on the island.

Sanya, the island’s main tourist hub, imposed a lockdown on Saturday and limited transport links to try to contain the outbreak, even as some 80,000 visitors were enjoying its beaches during peak season. Many are now stuck inside hotels until next Saturday, if not later. Read more

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Yang is staying with her husband and child in a four-star hotel paid for from their own pockets. The family is eating pot noodles every day to avoid spending more on food.

“This is the worst vacation of my life,” Yang, who is in his 40s and lives in southern China’s Jiangxi province, told Reuters on Sunday.

Sania reported 689 symptomatic and 282 asymptomatic cases between August 1 and August 7. Other cities around Hainan province, including Danzhou, Dongfang, Lingshui and Linggao, reported more than a dozen cases at the same time.

On Saturday, rail ticket sales outside Sanya were suspended, state broadcaster CCTV said, citing the national operator, and more than 80% of flights to and from Sanya were cancelled, according to data provider Variflight.

Hainan has been closed to foreign tourists for the past two and a half years since China stopped issuing tourist visas in response to the pandemic and enforced strict quarantine rules.

Sanya’s government announced on Saturday that tourists who canceled their flights would be able to book hotel rooms at half the price.

But dozens of tourists complained on WeChat groups on Sunday that their hotels were not enforcing such rules and they were still being charged the same rate as the original price. Two stranded tourists told Reuters they were in such a situation.

“We are now looking for ways to complain and protect our rights, but so far no government agency has contacted us or shown any interest in us,” said one of the tourists, a woman from east China’s Jiangsu province, who only gave. His surname as Zhou.

never coming back

A foreign tourist who lives in China and honeymooned in Sanya, said additional problems for stranded tourists include food delivery fees, hotel food prices and huge price hikes for flight tickets out of Hainan. He said, on condition of anonymity, that the food supply in his hotel was also low.

“We hope it doesn’t turn into another Shanghai,” the tourist said, referring to that city’s recent strict, two-month lockdown.

Hainan’s outbreak is the latest challenge to China’s zero-covid policy, after Shanghai’s chaotic lockdown undermined Beijing’s narrative that its handling of the epidemic was superior to other countries such as the United States, which has recorded more than a million COVID deaths.

Domestic visitors have kept Hainan’s tourism industry alive through many pandemics, but this sudden lockdown risks driving some tourists away for good.

“In short, we’ll never come back!” Zhou said who was on vacation with six family members.

Sania authorities said stranded tourists can leave the island from next Saturday, provided they have undergone five Covid tests and received negative results for all of them.

However, Yang said the wait time for test results has been long, prompting him to take multiple tests a day.

“We don’t know who to go to, the internet only has positive news about Sanya, like… the Sanya municipal government properly resettled 80,000 stranded tourists… as if the whole country thinks that (we are) beneficiaries, not victims,” ​​he said. .

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Reporting by Martin Quinn Pollard and Eduardo Baptista; Editing by Susan Fenton

Our values: Thomson Reuters Trust Policy.

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