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Tourists in Chinese beachside resort city protest Covid lockdown

This photo taken on Aug 7, 2022 shows a temporary Covid-19 coronavirus testing facility as it prepares to open in Sanya in China's southern Hainan province. (AFP photo)

Tourists in the Chinese seaside resort of Sanya on Hainan Island are protesting after being stranded for over a week due to Covid-19 lockdowns.

Frustration is boiling over among visitors at two resorts over a lack of information from hotel management and the government on when they can leave. Vacationers at the Wyndham Hotel and the Marriott Yalong Bay have gathered to protest being locked down for more than a week, guests told Bloomberg News.

More than a hundred were seen chanting outside the Wyndham that they want to go home, according to a video shared by a guest. A Wyndham spokesperson for the hotel did not respond to a request for comment after calls and an email.

The Covid outbreak in Hainan province has spread quickly since Aug 1, stranding tens of thousands of tourists on the island dubbed China’s Hawaii. Authorities imposed lockdowns in most of the province’s cities, suspending flights and shuttering businesses. 

While chartered flights have been arranged to send some travelers home, many are still waiting. Hainan province reported 1,340 cases for Saturday, pushing overall infections for China to 2,467, the highest since May.

Kary, an expat working in China’s eastern Jiangsu province, came to Sanya with her boyfriend to celebrate their two-year anniversary but ended up being locked down in the Wyndham a day after they arrived. They have been there for more than a week and had nine negative PCR test results, she told Bloomberg on Saturday.

Kary -- who did not give her last name for privacy reasons -- said more than 100 guests gathered outside the hotel on Friday to demand management stop charging them for food and accommodation with no end in sight to their stays. The province has said hotels should charge 50% of the market rate, but many tourists find it unacceptable to continue paying, she said. 

There were more protests on Saturday, she said, adding she hopes they’ll be able to leave soon.

“In the long run, it is really affecting people,” Kary said, referring to the Covid curbs. “And it’s affecting businesses.” 

Police was deployed to the Marriott in scenic Yalong Bay on Saturday after guests gathered by the front door to demand transfers, according to Araf, a British national based in China who is staying at the hotel. 

Araf told Bloomberg News that people want to go to another hotel after some Marriott staff tested positive for Covid. The cases meant guests will have to quarantine another 10 days and if they become infected they will be sent to a centralised quarantine facility, he said. A Marriott spokesperson for the hotel didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

“The situation here in Sanya now is absolutely crazy, absolute madness,” Araf said in a video he recorded. “There was a lot of government people there, police, just guarding the entrance. And literally everyone from the hotel was downstairs, screaming, shouting, crying, just frustrated.”

An officer at Yalong Bay police station, when reached by phone, said he didn’t have details of the incident and could not assist in a request for comment.

A worker at the Covid control taskforce in Haitang district in Sanya, who declined to give her name, said tourists need to apply to leave with relevant documents and test results. After the city government approves their departure, travellers will need to purchase their own tickets and wait for city-arranged transportation to the airport, she said.

The Covid flareups in a handful of China’s popular tourist regions, including Hainan, Xinjiang and Tibet, have disrupted the holidays of thousands of travellers. The country’s Covid-Zero policy that deploys snap lockdowns and mandatory quarantine for close contacts and isolation of positive cases, have made it a gamble for visitors. Despite the social and economic toll, Chinese President Xi Jinping has repeatedly said that zero-tolerance remains the right approach to fighting the virus.  

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