The city of Beihai, a popular summer vacation destination known for its white sand beach and volcanic island in the Guangxi region, has reported more than 500 infections in the past week – a major outbreak by Chinese standards. .

On Saturday, the Beihai government locked down urban parts of the city – where its resorts and tourist attractions are located – ordered mass testing and banned residents from leaving their homes.

The sweeping Covid restrictions have also reached Weizhou Island, an outlying islet more than an hour away by boat that is popular for its coastline and scenic beaches. From Friday, tourists were ordered to leave the island, while hotels and guesthouses were ordered to refund customers unconditionally.

On Sunday, Weizhou Island closed all entertainment venues, from bars, cinemas and massage parlors to swimming pools. Scenic spots across the island have also been closed.

At a press conference on Sunday, local officials said the more than 2,000 tourists stranded in Beihai would be treated according to their level of Covid risk: those who had not been to medium-risk areas or high and who were not identified as a direct or secondary contact of an infected person would be allowed to leave provided they could present a negative Covid test; others are expected to stay in the city and undergo quarantine.

Two city officials were removed from their posts for failing to take adequate measures to prevent the spread of the virus, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

The sudden closure of the tourist hotspot is the latest example of the economic pain inflicted by China’s costly zero-Covid strategy. Last week, the Chinese economy recorded its worst quarterly performance in more than two years, after months of severe closures that have taken their toll across the country.
China’s tourism industry has been hammered by seemingly endless travel restrictions and instant lockdowns, especially this year. During the Labor Day holiday in May, only 160 million domestic trips were made, down a third from the same period last year, according to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

Many tourist destinations had hoped to see more visitors during the summer holidays, but new highly transmissible subvariants of Omicron have put local governments under more pressure to control Covid surges.

On Sunday, China reported nearly 600 locally transmitted infections, its biggest rise since May. At least 16 provinces across the country have identified locally transmitted Covid cases so far this month, according to the National Health Commission.

In Macau, the government said on Saturday it would extend a citywide lockdown until July 22 as it scrambles to contain the gambling hub’s biggest Covid outbreak.

Macau imposed the shutdown on July 11, closing its casinos and banning residents from leaving their apartments except for essential activities like grocery shopping. It has recorded around 1,700 infections since mid-June.