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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Charlie Duffield

Covid lockdown sees 80,000 tourists stranded on 'China's Hawaii' in holiday horror

A whopping 80,000 tourists have been left stranded on a beautiful island dubbed 'China's Hawaii' after a Covid outbreak sparked a strict lockdown.

The tropical southern island of Hainan in the South China Sea had a nigh-perfect coronavirus track record, having recorded just two positive symptomatic Covid-19 cases in the whole of last year.

Fast forward to this month, however, and the number of cases has suddenly soared, prompting a lockdown in the city of Sanya and leaving tens of thousands of tourists like Yang stuck on the island.

Sanya, the island 's main tourist hub, imposed a lockdown on Saturday and restricted transport links to try to stem the outbreak, even as some 80,000 visitors were enjoying its beaches at peak season.

Many are now stuck inside hotels until next Saturday, if not longer.

People queue up for tests in Sanya (VCG via Getty Images)

Chinese businesswoman Yang Jing planned this year's summer holiday in 2021 and chose the island of Hainan because of its Covid record.

Yang, along with her husband and child, are staying at a four-star hotel paid out of their own pocket.

The family is eating pot noodles every day to avoid spending more on food.

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

Beaches sit empty on the Dadonghai bay, coast of Sanya (Getty Images)

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 is the Hawaii of China (Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

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.

The once busy beaches are on lockdown (VCG via Getty Images)

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.

A foreign tourist who lives in China and was on honeymoon in Sanya, said that additional issues for stranded tourists included massive price hikes in food delivery fees, meal prices at hotels, as well as flight tickets out of Hainan.

Food supplies in his hotel were also running low, he said, without wishing to be named.

An empty street is seen as Sanya imposes city-wide static control (VCG via Getty Images)

"We just hope it won't turn into another Shanghai," the tourist said, referring to that city's recent draconian, two-month lockdown.

The outbreak in Hainan is the latest challenge to China's zero-COVID policy, 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.

"In short, we will never come back!" said Zhou, who was on holiday with six other family members.

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.

Sanya is in lockdown and mass testing has begun (VCG via Getty Images)

However, Yang said the waiting times for test results have 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.

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