Ms. Chen owns a hotel in Huzhou City, Zhejiang Province. She told Chinese language media Xin Tang Ren that last Friday, October 14, an out-of-town guest had tested positive for COVID.
Afterward, the local government put all the employees and guests under lockdown and brought them high-priced meals three times a day, incurring additional costs for the guests and the hotel.
According to Ms. Chen, everyone cooperated with the lockdown. But, at first, it was supposed to last 3 days, then 6, with no end in sight. Now guests are starting to cause trouble and don’t want to pay. So who is going to pay all the costs?
Ms. Chen says it is unfair to shift the burden to her hotel.
In China, similar cases were reported during the National Golden Holidays. Tourist cities such as Xishuangbanna in Yunnan, Zhangjiajie in Hunan, Fenghuang and Sanya in Hainan suffered a sudden COVID outbreak and were put under lockdown. A large number of tourists were trapped and quarantined in local hotels. Tourists said that these hotels charge customers with high-priced stays and that the local government is making money in disguise.
Mr. Wang lives in Shanghai. He said the local government extorted money from local companies and manufacturers to help pay for the costs of the COVID measures.
According to Mr. Wang, in Xiangcheng district, the cost of nucleic acid tests is 12 million yuan (nearly $1,7 million) per month. The city has contributed 4 million yuan, but it is still insufficient. Who will pay the 8 million yuan ($1,1 million)?
Mr. Wang said the government would look to local companies to cover this cost. They could force the companies to lend them money, but they would not pay them back. Or they could base it on some reasons, such as tax evasion, and fine local companies 10 million yuan, or nearly $1.4 million. It’s a kind of extortion.
Some local governments are also having a hard time with the zero-COVID policy.
Initially, the costs of mass COVID testing were borne by public health insurance. However, in May, China’s insurance authority informed local governments that they must bear all the costs.
According to Mr. Wang, many places do not have sufficient funds to conduct the tests, so they mimic the real test. They take the test samples and then throw them away without testing. This is nothing more than a political task.
With COVID testing booths a 15-minute walk away in major cities and large-scale construction of makeshift hospitals, funds are becoming increasingly scarce.
All 31 Chinese provinces recorded a budget deficit in the first half of this year. Some civil servants have not been able to collect their salaries.