China’s Hainan starts mass Covid testing, imposes more lockdowns

Updated on Aug 08, 2022 05:45 AM IST

The virus strain, the Global Times report said, had been identified as the Omicron BA5.1.3 variant, a mutated variant that was reported in the country for the first time.

The government is attempting to work out concessional rates for the trapped tourists, local media reports said. (REUTERS) (File Photo)
The government is attempting to work out concessional rates for the trapped tourists, local media reports said. (REUTERS) (File Photo)

China’s southern island province of Hainan started mass Covid-19 testing on Sunday, locking down more parts of the province of over 10 million residents, as authorities scramble to contain multiple Omicron-driven outbreaks, including the worst in capital Sanya, often called “China’s Hawaii”.

The number of cases in the province, rapidly spreading across the island located on the South China Sea, has crossed the 1100-mark from August 1 until Sunday noon.

All flights were cancelled from Sanya on Sunday, trapping thousands of tourists in the city and smaller numbers in adjoining beach towns.

At least 10 cities and regions have announced “static management” or lockdowns.

Thousands of tourists have been sent back to their hotels from the airport in Sanya where they now have to mandatorily stay for at least a week, spending their own money for accommodation and food.

“In the face of the worsened Covid-19 situation, all the flights in and out of Sanya…have been cancelled on Sunday, one day after the city announced temporary static management, Chinese flight tracking platform Feichangzhun showed. Railways out of Sanya were also suspended on Saturday, according to railway authorities,” the state-run tabloid, Global Times reported on Sunday

The government is attempting to work out concessional rates for the trapped tourists, local media reports said.

Mass tests have started in Sanya – which has reported 971 confirmed cases -- with more than a million residents along with the tourists ordered to test every day.

At least three other towns including Wanning, Danzhou, and Lingshui have announced lockdowns, beginning Sunday with local residents being ordered to stay indoors and public transportation banned.

“The current round of the epidemic situation in Sanya is still at a serious level and the virus variant strain has strong transmission ability and faster transmission speed. The epidemic prevention and control situation is complicated and severe,” a local health bureau official said at a news conference in Sanya on Sunday.

The virus strain, the Global Times report said, had been identified as the Omicron BA5.1.3 variant, a mutated variant that was reported in the country for the first time.

The central fishing port of Yazhou district was the origin of the outbreak, which was likely to have been imported through trading with overseas fishermen, it added.

The rapidly spreading outbreak in Hainan is the latest challenge for the Chinese government to balance its strict “zero Covid” or “dynamic clearance” policy and economic growth. The lockdown is likely to badly hit domestic tourism, which had only started picking up recently in the backdrop of China’s strict Covid policies.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sutirtho Patranobis has been in Beijing since 2012, as Hindustan Times’ China correspondent. He was previously posted in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he covered the final phase of the civil war and its aftermath. Patranobis covered several beats including health and national politics in Delhi before being posted abroad.

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