The city of Urumqi reported 17 local infections Sunday, meaning that 47 cases have been identified since last Wednesday. Before that, it had not recorded a single case in nearly five months, according to the Xinjiang health authorities.
Since last week, Urumqi has also recorded 50 asymptomatic cases. In China, these are not considered confirmed cases under government guidelines.
To stop the outbreak escalating, authorities are now implementing the so-called Beijing model.
Yet in Beijing, public transportation wasn’t shut and only neighborhoods near high-risk clusters were put under full lockdown. The measures in Urumqi are even stricter — a sign of how seriously Chinese authorities are taking any reemergence of the virus.
On Saturday, the Xinjiang government declared that Urumqi had gone into “wartime” mode, banning all public gatherings and encouraging residents to stay in the city. Those who have to leave must first test negative for the coronavirus.
Authorities are also rolling out citywide testing, starting with neighborhoods and groups deemed high risk for contracting the virus.
More than 1,600 health care workers in Urumqi have been mobilized to carry out the tests, and 200 more medical workers were sent from 10 provinces and cities to help.
The city’s market regulation authorities also inspected 75 food markets, 237 supermarkets and 638 restaurants, where all employees and products tested negative.
As of Sunday morning, Urumqi had tested everyone under medical observation in hospital and in self-isolation at home, and was still tracing the source of the spike in cases. As of Monday, there were more than 3,000 people under medical observation.
A region used to surveillance
Before the latest outbreak, Xinjiang had ridden out the first wave of the coronavirus with just 76 cases including three deaths, partially 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 been subjected to increasing police surveillance amid a security crackdown against its 11 million Uyghurs.
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 abuses 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.”