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COVID-19 lockdown turns Chinese tourist hotspot Sanya

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    August 9, 2022 10:14 PM EDT

    Another 259 new COVID-19 cases have been reported in the southern Chinese island province of Hainan, where some 80,000 tourists have been stranded by pandemic restrictions.To get more news about coronavirus in china update, you can visit shine news official website.

    The island in the South China Sea recorded just two positive symptomatic cases in the whole of last year. Fast-forward to this month, however, and the number of cases has soared.

    Authorities declared Hainan's beach resort city Sanya a COVID-19 hotspot and imposed a lockdown, confining Chinese citizens and expatriates to their hotels on what they had hoped would be a holiday from tight restrictions around much of China.

    Tourists wanting to depart Sanya have to test negative for COVID-19 on five PCR tests over seven days.Chinese businesswoman Yang Jing, along with her husband and child, was among the stranded.

    The family has been staying at a four-star hotel while stuck on the island, which has been paid out of their own pocket.They have been eating pot noodles every day to avoid spending more on food."This is the worst holiday of my life," Ms Yang, who is in her 40s and lives in Jiangxi province in southern China, said.

    Sanya reported 689 symptomatic and 282 asymptomatic cases between August 1 and August 7. Other cities around Hainan province, including Danzhou, Dongfang, Lingshui, and Lingao, have all reported over a dozen cases in the same period.On Saturday, the sale of rail tickets out of Sanya was suspended, state broadcaster CCTV reported, citing the national operator, and more than 80 per cent of flights to and from Sanya had been cancelled, according to data provider Variflight.

    Sanya authorities have said that stranded tourists can leave the island starting next Saturday, provided they have done five COVID tests and obtained negative results for all of them.

    However, Ms Yang said the waiting times for test results had been long, prompting her to get multiple tests a day.

    "We don't know who to go to, the internet only has positive news about Sanya, such as … the Sanya municipal government has properly resettled the 80,000 stranded tourists … as if the whole country thinks that [we] are not victims, but beneficiaries," she said.Hainan has been closed to overseas tourists for the past two-and-half years since China, in response to the pandemic, stopped issuing tourist visas and implemented strict quarantine rules.

    Sanya's government announced on Saturday that tourists who have had their flights cancelled would be able to book hotel rooms at half price.

    But dozens of tourists on Sunday complained in WeChat groups that their hotels were not applying such a rule and they were still having to pay rates similar to the original prices.Two stranded tourists told Reuters they were in such a situation. "We are now looking for ways to complain and defend our rights, but so far no official body has contacted us or taken any interest in us," said one of the tourists, a woman from the eastern China province of Jiangsu, who only gave her surname as Zhou.

    Overall, China reported 324 new locally transmitted cases on Monday, along with 483 asymptomatic cases, which China classifies separately.China has stuck steadfastly to a zero-COVID policy, despite the economic and social costs.

    It has credited the policy with keeping hospitalisation and death rates lower than in other countries that have opened up amid high vaccination rates, more effective treatments and the emergence of the more contagious but less lethal strain of the virus.

    The outbreak in Hainan is the latest challenge to China's zero-COVID approach, after the chaotic lockdown in Shanghai dented Beijing's narrative that its handling of the pandemic was superior to other countries like the United States, which has recorded over a million COVID deaths.Domestic visitors have kept the tourism industry on Hainan alive through much of the pandemic, but this sudden lockdown risks turning some tourists away for good