Vacation destination Beihai strives to answer requests of stranded tourists due to sudden COVID flare-up
Published: Jul 18, 2022 10:08 PM
Residents and tourists enjoy themselves on beach in Beihai, SW China's Guangxi on June 22, 2022. Photo: IC

Residents and tourists enjoy themselves on beach in Beihai, SW China's Guangxi on June 22, 2022. Photo: IC

 The government of Beihai, Southwest China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, one of the most popular summer vacation destinations in China, is striving to answer the requests of more than 2,000 tourists, who were stranded there due to a sudden COVID-19 flare-up

Beihai government is arranging accommodation for those who could not get a hotel room, and trapped tourists are also waiting in hotels for further arrangements. 

Beihai government officials said at a Monday conference that it has established a special team to deal with the requests of more than 2,000 tourists, who were forced to extend their stay in the city because of a sudden COVID-19 flare-up and restrictive measures that came with it.

Tang Xiaofang, a tourist who arrived in Beihai last month, told the Global Times that she was sent back to Weizhou Island, an outlying islet over an hour's boat ride away from Beihai that is popular for beaches, when she took a boat to leave the island on Sunday. 

She was staying in her hotel the whole day and dared not go out. Tang had to pay the hotel fee, 70 yuan ($10.36) per day, and she said the "prices on the island are very high." She said the government hasn't notified her of the follow-up plans yet. 

Several hotels on Weizhou Island also reduced or remitted hotel fees for stranded tourists, the Global Times learned on Monday. 

Weizhou Island, one of the most popular spots in Beihai, issued a notice on Monday that banned any entry and exit from the island. The same day, Beihai also asked its residents not to leave the city unless necessary. 

Some tourists said that they were unable to book a hotel, since they don't have a green code, nor certificates of negative nucleic acid testing - two must-haves to guarantee a hotel room in the Chinese mainland. In response, the government said that it is coordinating the accommodation for such tourists. 

Those who had not been to medium- or high-risk areas, and who were not identified as a direct or secondary contact of an infected person, would be allowed to leave providing they could show a negative COVID-19 test result, said the government.

Another tourist who declined to give her name told the Global Times on Monday that she managed to return to Zhengzhou, Central China's Henan Province on Saturday. After her return, she will have to do two tests within three days. 

For tourists who could not make it to Beihai due to the sudden flare-up, the government asked hotels to refund fees to those guests, and it is coordinating with 11 airline companies to do the same. 

Beihai experienced a sudden outbreak last week, with a wholesale food market being the epicenter. The local government said that Beihai already reported 531 COVID-19 cases in the past six days, and the city is in the "key period" of coping with the outbreak as the current situation is complicated. Omicron's BA.2.3 mutation, which was recently discovered in the Chinese mainland, triggered this outbreak in Beihai.

Two officials of Beihai's health commission were removed on Sunday for negligence of anti-epidemic work.

Since COVID-19 cases nosedived compared with previous months, and the government streamlined anti-virus measures, tourism has been booming. According to a recent report, the hotel market has bounced back to 70 percent compared with last year, and orders for family hotels increased 20 percent compared with the pre-COVID era, China Central Television reported.

Sun-kissed coastal cities such as Sanya, Qingdao, Xiamen, and inland regions including Qinghai, Gansu and Xinjiang, topped the list of tourists. 

Yet these gatherings seemed to have caused case numbers to tick gently upwards. Apart from Beihai, cities in Northwest China's Gansu Province and Southwest China's Sichuan Province are also experiencing flare-ups. 

The reasons for those flare-ups in different places are not correlated. Since July, 12 places in China reported nine sub-variants of Omicron, including the highly transmissible BA. 2 and BA 2.38, media reported. 

An epidemiologist from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told the Global Times that those new sub-variants are unlikely to cause different or more severe symptoms, and the country's current anti-virus experience could manage to cope with the current waves.

The expert said that in the near future, more and more cities will experience low levels of virus transmission, due to Omicron's highly transmissibility and concealed nature, and "as long as society keeps running, the lockdowns in Shanghai and Jilin are unlikely to be repeated and low-level transmission could be a new normal." 

Huang Ziting contributed to this story