China races to contain COVID outbreaks in tourism hubs Tibet, Hainan


China raced on Tuesday to stamp out COVID-19 outbreaks in the tourist hubs of Tibet and Hainan, with the authorities launching more rounds of mass testing and closing venues to contain the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

Mainland China reported 828 new domestically transmitted cases across more than a dozen provinces and regions for Aug. 8, with over half of them in Hainan, a highly popular tourist destination.

Tibet, which until now had reported only one symptomatic case since the pandemic started more than two years ago, has also reported cases.

n Hainan, millions of residents are under lockdown in several cities and towns, only allowed out for necessary reasons such as COVID tests, grocery shopping and essential job roles. Some 178.000 tourists were also stranded in the southern island province, according to state media reports.

Provincial authorities must adopt all measures to achieve “COVID zero at the community level” by Friday, with no new cases emerging in communities outside the quarantine area, the Hainan Government said in a statement late Monday.

Hainan’s success in detaining smaller groups in April and July has generated satisfaction among officials and residents, a provincial health official said.

“We still have many shortcomings and weaknesses in the epidemiological investigation, testing and treatment of COVID,” Zhou Changqiang, head of the Hainan health commission, told state television in a program aired late Monday.

In Tibet, which previously had only one symptomatic COVID infection in more than 900 days, local authorities reported one local patient with confirmed symptoms and 21 asymptomatic infections on Aug 8.

Lhasa, the provincial capital and largest city in Tibet, has suspended major events and closed entertainment and religious venues.

Tibet’s second-largest city, Shigatse, has entered three days of restrictions in which people are barred from entering or leaving, with many businesses suspended. Both Lhasa and Shigatse are running a new round of mass testing, and the second round will start on Wednesday, state television said on Tuesday.

As for Tibet’s Ngari Prefecture, three cities have started three rounds of mass testing, while other cities are in the first round, state television said.

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