More than 9,000 travelers trapped during virus outbreak begin to leave
Ejine Banner, where the latest round of COVID-19 broke out, plans to transfer the 9,412 travelers who are stranded there to places classified as low-risk in three to five days, according to the local government.
"Specific plans have been made for each tourist to go back home," Zhou Qiang, deputy director of the transport bureau in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, said at a news conference on Thursday. "All the problems that the tourists might encounter during the transfer, including security, supplies and quarantine, have been considered."
According to Zhou, the first batch of 586 tourists were transferred from the banner to Zhengzhou, Henan province, on Wednesday, while two trains traveling to Kunming, Yunnan province and Nanyang, Henan province left the banner on Thursday.
Another train heading to Anhui province moved off on Friday. The four trains have transferred a total of 2,428 stranded tourists.
Stranded tourist Song Yumei, 48, took the special train from Ejine to Anhui, on Friday.
Song, who arrived in Ejine on Oct 17 with a group of over 30 tourists, only got to visit one attraction before being quarantined.
"Our biggest challenge was a lack of drugs, food and living necessities, but the local government has tried its best to help us," she said.
The train has 513 passengers and most are elderly people. She said the train would stop at different stations in Anhui. Song will get off in Bengbu city and be quarantined at a local hospital.
"We should cooperate, for our family and for ourselves. Some tourists complained but problems were well solved," she said, adding the pity was that she had not tasted any delicious food or seen more in Ejine.
"I didn't bring back anything except for a populus leaf, although I did eat the best boxed meal in my life."
Ejine, as the autonomous region's banner with the largest area and smallest population, has been under great pressure to contain the outbreak and guarantee normal lives for the stranded tourists.
However, tourists that do not meet the health requirements to be transferred will have to stay in the banner, Zhou said.
According to local health requirements, tourists had to pass five rounds of nucleic acid tests, be quarantined for at least seven days in Ejine, show no symptoms for 14 days and present negative nucleic acid test results taken within 48 hours to be allowed to transfer.
Wang Lixia, deputy Party secretary and the chairwoman of the autonomous region, said that workers transferring the tourists must be extremely responsible and meticulous.
"Safety evaluations should be done for the senior people and those with illnesses," she said. "Medical workers should accompany them the whole journey. Attention should also be paid to those who have shown psychological and emotional pressures."
Shuang Bao, director of the banner's bureau of culture, tourism, radio and television, said that 80 percent of the first batch of 586 tourists are aged 60 and above.
"We've considered what the seniors need during the transfer," he said. "We provided ramen, instant cooked rice, yogurt and apples for them. Each train has at least one doctor and one worker serving them."
Places receiving the stranded tourists, either by train, bus or car, have prepared rooms with good conditions for them, such as Khiyabagsh in Ordos, Inner Mongolia.
Each of the tourists will have a separate room equipped with Wi-Fi and cable, as well as access to free books, fresh fruit and hand gel.
The tourists will be allowed to go home after a 14-day quarantine.
On Thursday, the Chinese mainland reported 48 new confirmed locally transmitted COVID-19 cases, according to the National Health Commission on Friday.
Of the cases, 19 were reported in Inner Mongolia, 12 in Gansu, nine in Heilongjiang, three in Qinghai, two each in Beijing and Ningxia, and one in Yunnan.