(Reuters) — A tourist stranded on Hainan Island, a Chinese tropical province battling a recent COVID-19 outbreak, told Reuters on Wednesday about his disappointment at being placed under lockdown again, after a failed attempt to leave the holiday hotspot.
Shanghai-based American expatriate Micah Hostetter and his wife, Anna Dobrovolskaia, had changed their flight home to Aug. 6, a day earlier, in an attempt to avoid a COVID-19 lockdown. However, just 20 minutes after the couple checked in at the airport and went through security, they were told that all flights were canceled.
A lockdown was announced on Aug. 6, with transport links restricted to try to stem the outbreak. Many tourists such as Hostetter are now stuck inside hotels until Saturday, if not longer.
“It’s disappointing,” said Hostetter, a business consultant based in Shanghai. “We were locked down in Shanghai for two-and-a-half months, and we’re just like ‘wow, we can’t believe this is actually happening again.'”
At least nine cities and towns on Hainan, with a combined population of about 7 million, said their residents must not leave where they live, except for necessary reasons such as COVID-19 tests, grocery shopping or essential job roles.
However, Hostetter described lockdown conditions in the holiday hotspot as more “relaxed” compared to what he experienced in Shanghai, where he was not allowed to leave his home at all.
Hainan province, which recorded just two local symptomatic COVID-19 cases last year, has reported more than 1,500 domestically transmitted infections this month, including over 1,000 symptomatic ones. Although that is low by global standards, it is the province’s biggest outbreak since the virus was first reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.
The sharp increase in cases comes as interest in tourism picks up after China eased slightly curbs aimed at domestic travel, accounting for the shorter quarantine time facilitated by the shorter incubation period of the omicron variant.
However, the measures in Hainan, in line with China’s “dynamic COVID-zero” policy that aims to stamp out outbreaks as soon as possible, point to persistent uncertainty shrouding travel and may further dampen confidence in the tourism and hospitality sectors.
Copyright Thomson Reuters 2022.