A group of tourists escaped being stranded in the Chinese resort city of Sanya, Hainan Province, after authorities declared it a COVID hot spot and imposed a lockdown on Aug. 6.

According to Apollo News, a group of about 280 experienced a stressful evacuation lasting more than 60 hours. From their decision to leave Sanya on Aug. 4 to the safe departure, it took the group more than 60 hours, making 100 calls a day.

Li Wei, a member of the group, said that they are from a large company that came to Hainan to hold team-building meetings. He said he never imagined that he would have such a shocking experience.

They arrived in Sanya from Haikou on a peaceful Aug. 3. According to the original plan, they would return after a few days.

After checking into a hotel, they were ready to start the company’s meeting and hold the team building exercises on Aug. 4. Unlike the guests who stayed in high-star hotels, the tour guide from Haikou Private Travel Agency accompanying the group stayed in a nearby hotel. Then the crisis began.

The tour guide got up at 7:00 a.m. on Aug. 4 and found that the nearby fishing village was closed. From his own experience, he thought the COVID pandemic situation had become serious there, and that he should discuss with the tourists about evacuating Sanya.

Tian Li, assistant general manager of Haikou Private Travel Agency, told Yicai.com that all the guests stayed in luxury hotels at that time. The hotel fees for a 3-day stay were paid in advance. If they all suddenly checked out, the costs would be lost.

Li said they calculated and estimated a loss of nearly $30,000 (200,000 yuan). But they still decided that they must evacuate quickly, otherwise it might be more troublesome. If the 280 employees of the customer company couldn’t leave, they may face a 7-day quarantine, then the financial loss to this company would be even heavier.

When they decided to evacuate, Tian Li communicated with Li Wei’s company executives. The initial discussion was not very smooth, because the situation seemed okay at that time, the hotel and airline were operating as usual.

But Tian Li insisted on evacuating. After negotiation between the two parties, he decided to check out all day and rush back to Haikou.

In order to make up for the customers’ disappointment, his travel agency arranged for the team to go to Wuzhizhou Island on Aug. 4. The travel agency then urgently arranged a series of back-end operations.

After the tour of Wuzhizhou Island, the train went directly to Haikou. Some customers were not satisfied. They felt that they had come to Sanya and went back without doing anything, not even having a good meal. 

After communications and explanations, the team of 280 drove from Wuzhizhou Island for more than 3 hours and returned to Haikou on Aug. 4.

When they returned to Haikou, an incident happened. Because Haikou is in peak tourism season, there are a lot of tourists. When the team checked in, the hotel’s intake system collapsed.

Most of Li Wei’s colleagues were in a bad mood after traveling and their plan was canceled, so they had some disputes at the hotel. The hotel had to bring in an additional five sales managers to comfort the team.

But challenges came unexpectedly. On Aug. 5, Sanya authorities announced a lockdown, requiring people not to go out or leave the city unless necessary.

According to the COVID pandemic prevention regulations in Hainan Province, guests need to undergo two separate COVID tests for three days before leaving. Therefore, starting on Aug. 5, the team of 280 people began to do COVID tests..

There is a Covid testing point near the hotel, but it is small. The guests were notified to walk there in batches.

After the COVID testing, the travel agency arranged a flight for the team to leave on Aug. 6. At this time, Sanya canceled a large number of flights. In Haikou, most of the flights were still normal.

But then another incident happened. On the evening of Aug. 5, Tian Li and his colleagues received a message that there seemed to be a sample positive to COVID, and if so, then the whole team had to stay. 

It was later found to be a false alarm. When the official test results came out, everyone was negative.

Until the afternoon of Aug. 6, after meeting all the pandemic prevention requirements, the guests were sent to Haikou Airport.

On the evening of Aug. 6, Hainan issued a new policy.

The Hainan COVID pandemic prevention office said that if passengers in Hainan are confirmed cases or infected, or judged as close contacts, or in medium and high risk areas, or currently in Sanya, or have a travel history in Sanya since July 23, they could not leave the island for the time being.

Anyone with a travel history in Sanya needs to stay for 7 days before leaving. This measure would be implemented from 6:00 pm on Aug. 6.

Fortunately, the team’s flight time completed the formalities and boarded the plane before 6 p.m.

Tian Li recalled that, from the decision to leave Sanya on the morning of Aug. 4 to the final safe departure of all 280 team members, his travel agency completed a pressure-packed evacuation of more than 60 hours.

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