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48 new cases reported in resort city

By MA ZHIPING in Haikou | China Daily | Updated: 2022-08-05 09:35
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Outbreak involving variant not seen on mainland before triggers lockdown

Sanya, a coastal city on the southern tip of Hainan island and a popular tourist destination, reported 48 new confirmed locally transmitted cases of COVID-19 from midnight to midday on Thursday, increasing the total number of confirmed cases to 72 in the current outbreak that was first detected on Monday, according to the city's epidemic prevention and control authority.

Among the newly confirmed cases in the city, one was initially an asymptomatic carrier whose status has changed. The other new cases were found in centralized isolation locations, high-risk areas, screenings of residential communities and key personnel under closed-loop management.

The virus was sequenced and found to be the Omicron BA.5.1.3 variant, the first time this particular variant has been detected on the Chinese mainland, local officials said at a news conference in Sanya on Thursday afternoon.

They said that based on comprehensive analysis, experts believe the origin of the virus was contaminated imports of seafood at the Yazhou fishing port. It was most likely transmitted through transactions between Hainan traders and those overseas.

Local officials said Sanya has set up a special work team to conduct investigations, especially among fishermen and seafood traders, as one of the confirmed cases is a seafood vendor.

Sanya has imposed lockdown measures starting on Thursday in most parts of the city, in a move to curb fresh COVID-19 clusters. People are required to provide negative nucleic acid test results from within 24 hours before entering or leaving offices, public places and residential communities. Public transportation, including buses, trams, cruise ships and ferries have been suspended, according to the city government.

From Monday to Wednesday, Danzhou on the western coast of Hainan island reported four infections, Lingshui on the eastern coast reported one while another was found in northwestern Lingao county, said the Hainan Provincial Health Commission.

Work tracing close contacts, isolation and control and medical treatment of the confirmed cases is proceeding in an orderly manner across the island province. Epidemic control measures have also been strengthened to curb the spread of the virus, said local officials.

They said a number of major scenic spots in and around Sanya have issued notices suspending business operations starting from Thursday to ensure the safety of the general public and tourists. Full airfare and hotel reservation refunds will be arranged for tourists who cancel their visits due to the current situation.

Also on Thursday, Hainan provincial authorities issued a letter to local fishermen, calling for their cooperation with governments at all levels and epidemic prevention and control departments so that they can do their job in epidemic prevention and control.

It said fishermen need to report before setting out to sea and check temperatures and take nucleic acid tests before returning to ports in Hainan.

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