The Chinese seaside town of Sanya is stepping up its Covid-19 controls and disrupting the vacation plans of thousands of people after a spate of cases made it the country’s newest virus hotspot.
The city in the southern province of Hainan — often referred to as the “Hawaii of China” — reported 107 new infections since Thursday afternoon, according to CCTV. That brings the total number of cases since Monday to more than 140. Officials say the flare-up is caused by the BA.5.1.3 ommicron subvariant, which has not been found in China before, and has been linked to a fishmonger.
Authorities partially closed the city on Thursday, closing indoor locations such as karaoke parlors and bars, while restaurants only offer takeout. People in high-risk areas are not allowed to leave their homes or shelters, while others may venture out only once every two days to purchase supplies. Anyone wishing to leave Sanya must have a negative Covid test result within 48 hours of departure.
There is little to see and do for holidaymakers staying in the city and Chinese social media showed photos of rows of people meandering around the Covid testing sites. Tourist attractions are closed and any visit to the beach in Yalong Bay and Haitang Bay must be tested negative within 24 hours.
The rapid shutdown, a core principle of Covid Zero, has been repeated across China since the earliest days of the pandemic. But the strategy has been increasingly challenged by the spread of more infectious sub-variants and has taken a heavy economic and social toll.
It has also left the country isolated in a world that has mostly revolved around living with the virus and it’s unclear how authorities can navigate to an exit. President Xi Jinping has made the zero-tolerance approach a feature of his rule and has said the nation will not pursue “herd immunity” like other countries, as doing so would take too much toll, especially on China’s elderly, who have lower vaccination rates. to have. prices.
Sanya is the third tourist center in China to see its peak season disrupted by outbreaks this year. Beihai in the picturesque province of Guangxi went into lockdown last month to contain an outbreak, before restrictions were eased from Aug. 1. visitors stay away.
Elsewhere, the manufacturing and trading city of Yiwu, famous for producing Christmas trees and decorations, has stepped up movement restrictions. Public transport will be suspended for three days from Friday and most covered locations will be closed as the city conducts massive tests. In some neighborhoods residents are not allowed to leave their homes. Jinhua, the prefecture-level city that controls Yiwu, among others, reported 65 cases on Thursday.
China reported 410 cases across the country on Thursday.
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