Millions of domestic tourists are descending on China's southernmost island province of Hainan, presenting a surreal contrast with grim hospital scenes, shuttered restaurants and stifling home quarantine elsewhere in a virus-ravaged world.

Known at home as the "Hawaii of China," the island, about the size of Taiwan, has been free of the coronavirus for six months, drawing eager shoppers to duty-free malls, couples seeking a subtropical backdrop for wedding pictures and surfers just looking to "breathe freely."

October arrivals of 9.6 million, according to official data, exceeded the year-earlier figure, before the pandemic struck, by 3.1%, although foreign visitors slumped 87%. That was a far cry from February, when arrivals had dropped almost 90%.