Over 80,000 tourists stranded in ‘China’s Hawaii’ after Covid-19 flare-up

About 80,000 tourists were left stranded in the southern Chinese beach resort city of Sanya located in the tropical Hainan island after authorities declared it a Covid-19 hotspot and imposed a lockdown.

The restrictions came into effect over the weekend after officials confirmed 129 positive cases on Saturday and 229 on Friday.

Public transportation was suspended on the island city, often referred to as the “Hawaii of China”, as railway authorities banned all ticket sales in Sanya.

Flights were also cancelled on Saturday. However, hotels will offer guests a 50 per cent discount during the lockdown period, according to a city official.

Tourists and expatriates wanting to depart Sanya will have to test negative for the coronavirus on five PCR tests over the next week.

China has divided the beach city into high and medium-risk zones, as authorities detected the highly transmissible Omicron BA.5.1.3 subvariant in the outbreak, which they suspect was spread through contact with overseas seafood dealers at the island’s Yazhou fishing port, reported CNN.

The lockdown comes amid peak tourism season in Sanya, which is known for its resorts and beaches.

China, which has steadfastly stuck to its “zero-Covid” policy, recorded more than 470 new cases in Hainan province on Sunday. Of this, 245 people did not show symptoms, prompting authorities to also announce a 13-hour lockdown in capital Haikou city.

The lockdown will remain in place on Monday in the provincial capital from 7am to 8pm.

On Saturday, the provincial authorities announced a partial lockdown in the city of Danzhou, which has a population of about one million.

On Sunday, Qionghai city announced a raft of measures including shutting down non-essential businesses and directing its population of half a million to not step out of home unless necessary.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese city, announced that it would reduce a mandatory hotel quarantine for overseas arrivals from one week to three days. The new policy will take effect from Friday.

Additional reporting by agencies