Xinjiang capital stranded following surge in coronavirus cases

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Urumqi city reported 17 local infections on Sunday, meaning 47 cases have been identified since last Wednesday. Earlier, he hadn’t registered a case for nearly five months, according to Xinjiang health officials.

Since last week, Urumqi has also recorded 50 asymptomatic cases. In China, these cases are not considered confirmed cases according to government guidelines.

To stop the escalation of the epidemic, authorities are now implementing the so-called Beijing model.

Last month, Beijing experienced the worst coronavirus resurgence in China since the initial epidemic was largely brought under control in March. The outbreak has infected more than 300 people, but rapid lockdown measures, extensive contact tracing and mass testing have kept it contained.

Yet in Beijing, public transportation was not closed and only neighborhoods near high-risk clusters were subjected to total lockdown. The measures at Urumqi are even stricter – a sign of the seriousness with which the Chinese authorities are taking any re-emergence of the virus.

Wartime mode

On Friday, after Urumqi reported only six new infections in two days, authorities locked up all of the city’s 3.5 million residents, prohibiting people from leaving their living quarters. Shopping malls and hotels have also been closed, according to the new state magazine China Newsweek.

The city’s only metro line announced on social media that it had suspended service on Thursday evening. He did not say when operations will resume. To prevent the virus from seeping into other parts of the country, nearly 90% of flights to Urumqi were canceled on Friday, according to the Global Times, a tabloid run by the Chinese government.

On Saturday, the Xinjiang government said Urumqi had entered “wartime” mode, banning all public gatherings and encouraging residents to stay in the city. Those who have to quit must first test negative for the coronavirus.

Authorities are also rolling out testing across the city, starting with neighborhoods and groups deemed to be at high risk of contracting the virus.

More than 1,600 health workers in Urumqi were mobilized to perform the tests, and another 200 medical workers were sent from 10 provinces and cities to help.

The city’s market regulator also inspected 75 food markets, 237 supermarkets and 638 restaurants, where all employees and products tested negative.

Sunday morning, Urumqi had tested everyone under medical observation in the hospital and in self-isolation at home, and always traced the source of the tip in the cases. On Monday, there were more than 3,000 people under medical observation.

A region used to surveillance

Before the last outbreak, Xinjiang had wiped out the first wave of the coronavirus with just 76 cases including three deaths, in part due to strict lockdown measures in February and March.

Restrictions on freedom of movement are not new to the region. In recent years, Xinjiang has come under increased police surveillance amid a security crackdown on its 11 million Uyghurs.

Since 2016, evidence has shown that the Chinese government operates huge fortified centers to detain Uighur citizens. According to the US State Department, up to 2 million people may have been taken to the camps. A widespread coronavirus outbreak could be disastrous at one of these overcrowded facilities, which have been increasingly in the global spotlight in recent months.

Last week, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on a number of Chinese officials, including Chen Quanguo, the Communist Party secretary for Xinjiang, for their involvement in human rights violations targeting ethnic minority groups. in Xinjiang.

Beijing retaliated by announcing sanctions against US officials, including Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, calling on the US to “stop interfering in China’s international affairs.”

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