Stranded tourists in the suddenly Omicron-hit South China's Hainan Province eligible for leaving the province started to be sent back in batches to their hometowns on Tuesday afternoon, with the first batch returning to Xi'an in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province on a chartered flight.
The epidemic prevention and control authority in Hainan announced at a routine press conference on Tuesday afternoon that the first batch of 125 tourists stranded in Sanya, known as the "Hawaii of China" and one of the most famous tourism destinations in China, took off from the Sanya Phoenix International Airport on a chartered flight at 4:28 pm, heading for their hometown in Xi'an.
On Tuesday, the local authorities started to organize stranded tourists eligible for leaving to leave the city in batches by plane, and the first batch of tourists allowed to go were all evaluated and met the relevant epidemic prevention requirements.
The sudden flare-up in Hainan caused by the Omicron BA5.1.3 variant started from the central fishing port of Yazhou district in Sanya, and around 180,000 tourists were stranded in the province as of Sunday.
Hainan reported 40 new local infections on Tuesday at noon, bringing cumulative infections to 1,899, including 1,558 infections in Sanya.
The flare-up that started in Sanya has spread to a dozen cities and counties in the province, leaving 268 regions classified as high-risk and 167 as medium-risk as of Tuesday morning.
A tourist from Shanghai who asked for anonymity told the Global Times on Tuesday that she is staying at a hotel in Sanya near the airport and living on take-out meals every day.
She booked a ticket for a flight back to Shanghai on Thursday and hoped that she could fly smoothly soon.
According to the new regulations, in cities, counties and districts without an epidemic, if there are no positive cases identified in tourist groups or their hotels within a seven-day period, or individual tourists with no symptoms such as fever, dry cough, loss of smell or muscle soreness within three days, they can leave the province with two negative nucleic acid testing results within 48 hours.
In low-risk areas, the requirement for leaving the province is negative nucleic acid testing results three times within 72 hours.
A public relations specialist surnamed Shang from Grand Hyatt in Haitang district, Sanya, told the Global Times on Tuesday that despite no stranded tourists in her hotel, which was still under the static management, was arranged to send back to their hometowns on Tuesday, the local epidemic prevention authority has already collected personal information of the stranded tourists in the hotel and the hotel will cooperate with the following up arrangements accordingly.
However, some tourists raised concerns over the possible changes in policies.
A tourist surnamed Liu from Taiyuan, capital of North China's Shanxi Province, told the Global Times on Tuesday that a total of seven people from her family and that of her friend had been stranded in Hainan since August 1.
Four adults and three infants aged three to four years old first traveled to Sanya but rushed to Haikou city in Hainan last Friday in the hope of leaving the province from there due to the sudden flare-up.
However, frequently changing requirements on the validity period of nucleic acid testing results led them to cancel flights three times.
To her relief, local volunteers contacted her on Tuesday afternoon and brought her children formula powder. "I appreciate the kindness of the people of Hainan and expect the local authorities to arrange our return as soon as possible," Liu said.
Haikou also issued on Tuesday a notice of citywide static management from 6 am to 11 pm on Wednesday.