After enduring a 10-day quarantine, Brian Hall escaped from Shanghai in June to avoid another lockdown on his residential compound and made his way to the Chinese tourist island of Hainan, where he could work remotely as a professor of public health.
Hall, who has spent the last two years working at New York University Shanghai, is currently stranded in Sanya, the island of Hainan’s biggest tourist destination, and it is unclear when he will be able to leave.
“It has become impossible to leave the city. The hotel where I am staying is sealed and guests are not permitted to leave our rooms according to the city’s instructions,” Hall told Reuters via email.
Hainan province is one of the several Chinese regions that had seen relatively few cases for more than two years which are now battling outbreaks, raising the risk of persistent tight restrictions as the economy weakens.
“My emotions naturally range from complete denial and disbelief, to anger, sadness, and eventually hopelessness,” said Hall, who like millions in Shanghai, endured a strict two-month lockdown earlier this year.
“It is not so much the lockdown here, but the memories of the Shanghai lockdown that have revisited me, and the sense of unease about what the fall will bring in Shanghai and elsewhere.”
Hainan, which recorded just two local symptomatic COVID-19 cases last year, has reported more than 1,800 domestically transmitted infections already in August.
Although low by global standards, authorities on the island have locked down millions of residents, state media reported, as part of China’s “dynamic COVID-zero” policy that aims to stamp out outbreaks as soon as possible. People are only allowed out only for certain reasons such as COVID tests, grocery shopping and essential job roles.
About 178,000 tourists were stranded in Hainan, including around 57,000 in Sanya, state media has reported.
Hall, who has to stay in his room and relies on the hotel for daily essentials including food and water, said he couldn’t predict what was likely to happen but just had to take it as it comes.
“We must remain flexible in our plans and able to accept these disruptions if we desire to live and work here.”