° СThe beach resort city of Sanya in Hina is stepping up its Covid-19 controls, disrupting holiday plans for thousands of people after a surge in cases made it the nation’s latest virus hotspot.
The city in southern Hainan province – often called the “Hawaii of China” – reported 107 new infections as of midday Thursday, according to CCTV. That brings the total number of cases since Monday to more than 140. Officials say the outbreak is caused by the BA.5.1.3 omicron subvariant, which has not been detected in China before and is linked to a fish trader.
Authorities partially locked the city on Thursday, closing indoor venues such as karaoke halls and bars, while restaurants only offer takeout. People in areas categorized as high-risk are banned from leaving their homes or accommodation, while others can go out only once every two days to buy essential goods. Anyone wishing to leave Sanya must receive a negative Covid test result within 48 hours of departure.
For holidaymakers staying in the city, there is little to see and do, and Chinese social media showed pictures of queues of people snaking around Covid testing sites. Tourist attractions are closed and visiting the beach in Yalong Bay and Haitang Bay requires a negative test done within 24 hours.
Rapid lockdown, a core principle of Covid Zero, has been replicated across China since the earliest days of the pandemic. But the strategy is increasingly challenged by the proliferation of more infectious subvariants and caused severe economic and social damage.
It has also left the country isolated in a world that is mostly focused on living with the virus, and it is unclear how authorities can navigate a way out. President Xi Jinping has made a zero-tolerance approach a hallmark of his administration and said the nation would not pursue “herd immunity” like other nations because it would impose too many casualties, especially on China’s elderly, who have a lower vaccination rates.
Sanya is the third tourist center in China to have its peak season disrupted by outbreaks this year. Beihai in the scenic Guangxi province, closed last month to contain the outbreak before beginning to ease restrictions on August 1. The city of Yining in Xinjiang, which attracts tourists along the Silk Road, had group tours between the provinces stopped and officials asked visitors to stay away.
Elsewhere, the manufacturing and trading city of Yiwu, known for making Christmas trees and decorations, tightened restrictions on movement. Public transport will be stopped for three days from Friday and most indoor venues are closed as the city conducts mass testing. Residents of some areas are prohibited from leaving their homes. Jinhua, the prefecture-level city that governs areas including Yiwu, reported 65 cases as of Thursday.
China reported 410 cases nationwide as of Thursday.
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