China Daily

Summer crowds may have impacted Xinjiang outbreak

- By CUI JIA in Beijing and MAO WEIHUA in Urumqi Contact the writers at

The summer surge in tourists may have contribute­d to the current COVID-19 outbreak in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, and increased the risk of its spread inside and outside the region, a local health official said.

By the end of Monday, there had been 420 asymptomat­ic cases since the first case in the latest outbreak was reported in the Ili Kazak autonomous prefecture on July 30. Of them, 338 are located in Ili’s Yining city, according to Xinjiang’s regional health commission. No confirmed cases have yet been reported.

The virus responsibl­e for the latest outbreak belongs to the Omicron subvariant BA.5.2 which initially arrived from overseas, Cui Yan, deputy director of the commission told a news conference on Monday night.

“The epidemic prevention and control situation in Xinjiang is complex and grim as the region is in its peak tourist season,” Cui said. “The flow of people and cross-regional movement may have contribute­d to the transmissi­on of the virus, and increased the risk of its spread inside and outside Xinjiang.”

The outbreak has already hit 10 prefecture­s and prefecture-level cities in the region, the commission said.

Xinjiang has become one of the country’s top tourist destinatio­ns this summer. Between July 30 and Aug 7, it received 8.82 million visits. Measures will be taken to protect tourists affected by the outbreak, Yan Naimin, deputy director of Xinjiang’s regional culture and tourism bureau, said on Monday.

“Currently, tourism in Xinjiang is both stable and controllab­le. Special service teams have been set up to ensure a speedy response to tourist demands. Additional­ly, those who cancel hotel reservatio­ns or ticket bookings as a result of the epidemic will receive full and unconditio­nal refunds,” Yan said.

The deputy director added that local government­s are working to help tourists leave the region in an orderly manner, and have provided them with water, food and other basic necessitie­s. Hotels in areas affected by the outbreak are being encouraged to lower their rates to cater to those unable to leave.

Zheng Mingquan, an official from the transport department of Xinjiang, said on Monday that railways, highways and airports are operating normally in lowrisk areas, ensuring the smooth flow of tourists and goods. None of Xinjiang’s airports have been closed because of the epidemic. Meanwhile, daily railway services between Yining, the city worst hit by the outbreak, and the regional capital of Urumqi, have been cut from 14 to two.

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