Sanya, Yiwu see flare-ups during summer season; large-scale transmission risk still 'small'
Published: Aug 05, 2022 09:23 PM
Yachts return to their home port after sightseeing and entertainment near Sanya, South China's Hainan Province, on August 4, 2022. Since the construction of the Hainan Free Trade Port, the yacht industry has developed rapidly. By 2025, the scale of the yacht market is expected to exceed 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion). Photo: cnsphoto

Yachts return to their home port after sightseeing and entertainment near Sanya, South China's Hainan Province. Photo: cnsphoto

Chinese cities including Sanya, the "Hawaii of China," and Yiwu, the world's small commodity capital, have seen rising numbers of COVID-19 infections during recent days, with tourism affected in the short term. But experts noted that large-scale transmission risk is relatively low, due to local authorities' prompt and strict epidemic prevention and control measures.

From Monday to 8 am Friday, South China's Hainan Province reported 235 positive cases, with 165 confirmed cases in Sanya, according to the authorities on Friday.

The cluster outbreak in Sanya has spread within the province, and the virus strain is the Omicron BA5.1.3 variant, which was reported for the first time domestically with hidden and strong transmission, Li Wenxiu, deputy director of the Health Commission of Hainan Province, said during Friday's press briefing. 

The infection source is still unclear, but it was likely to have been imported through trading with overseas fish vendors, Li said. It is also possible that the infection in the fishing port was caused by frozen fish products from abroad, according to Li.

Yiwu in East China's Zhejiang Province has reported 149 local cases since Tuesday, and the virus strain is the Omicron BA.5.2 variant, with faster and higher transmission, said the local authorities on Friday. 

A local resident surnamed Zhang in Yiwu said life there is relatively "stable and orderly despite facing a flare-up." The surrounding supermarkets, markets and other businesses in low-risk regions are still operating under epidemic prevention measures. 

The local government will send daily supplies to residents who are under closed-loop management, according to Zhang.

Local authorities immediately adopted prevention and control measures, with Sanya conducting a temporary regional lockdown for three days starting from Thursday. Tourists can only leave Sanya with two negative nucleic acid tests within 48 hours. Yiwu's buses halted service for three days starting from Friday.

Hainan has taken prompt strict epidemic control measures, so the large-scale transmission risk is relatively "small," said a Beijing-based expert on condition of anonymity. People still need to be vigilant toward the epidemic situation as the number of infections is still on rise, said the expert.

Most domestic tourism has been hit hard by the epidemic, but some employees in the sector still show confidence, as they believe the impact is short term.

In the second quarter, Sanya airport's average daily arrivals went down 74.8 percent year-on-year. But in June alone, Sanya received 1.19 million domestic overnight visits, up 93.17 percent compared with May, according to the Sanya Tourism Promotion Board. 

An employee in the Sanya Xiaodongtian tourist area told the Global Times on Friday that the tourist attraction was suspended on Tuesday after a confirmed case was detected on Monday, and employees were required to stay at home. 

The epidemic has had an "impact on the tourism industry," as the city faced a wave in April, and started to resume in the summer holiday as the epidemic across the country started to ease in July. "But we still have confidence, as the local government has conducted epidemic prevention measures in a timely manner," the employee said.

A few staffers started to work in the tourist zone under closed-loop management from Tuesday and the tourist attraction has been suspended, an employee surnamed Zhang from Sanya's Nanshan Cultural Tourism Zone told the Global Times on Friday.  

Another employee surnamed Gao from a golf club in Sanya's low-risk region Yalong Bay told the Global Times on Friday that a negative 24-hour nucleic acid test result is required for entry. Many bookings were cancelled due to the latest flare-up, Gao said. Gao and other employees are working under closed-loop management. 

A tourist who arrived at Sanya and stayed in a low-risk hotel in Haitang Bay on Wednesday told the Global Times on Friday she felt that life in the hotel is relatively normal. But the surrounding restaurants have been closed, she said.