China Struggles to Contain Uyghur Coronavirus Outbreak

China Struggles to Contain Uyghur Coronavirus
Outbreak 1

Chinese health authorities in the western territory of Xinjiang said on Wednesday that they are testing all residents of the villages of Shufu and Aktau for coronavirus for the fourth time in 12 days.

The announcement comes after the region recorded a fresh cluster outbreak last month.

“Authorities made the decision after 116 people tested positive [for coronavirus] without symptoms in the previous round of testing, which ended on Tuesday night [November 3]. All of those infections were linked to the township [Kashgar] where the first case was reported on October 24,” the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on November 4.

“As of 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Xinjiang had a total of 64 confirmed cases and 345 asymptomatic cases [of the Chinese coronavirus],” China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

“The two confirmed cases were re-categorized from asymptomatic carriers and all the new asymptomatic cases were among people who are under isolated medical observation in Kashgar,” Wang Xijiang, Deputy Director of Kashgar’s disease control and prevention center, said on Tuesday at a press conference organized by the regional government.

Wang said that the high frequency of testing was necessary to detect coronavirus infections early, as “asymptomatic patients could test positive at different stages of the incubation period.” According to Wang, early detection allows health officials time to better control an outbreak.

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“Nucleic acid testing is the gold standard for confirming infections, and it is also the most important method for detecting and identifying asymptomatic infections,” Wang said, according to the SCMP.

“To get the epidemic under control as soon as possible, we will launch a fourth round of free nucleic acid testing for all residents in Shufu county on November 4,” he explained.

“The Kizilsu Kyrgyz autonomous prefecture, which neighbors Kashgar, also carried out two rounds of mass testing in October that detected 15 cases in Aktau county. Aktau has also begun a fourth round of testing for its 220,000 residents after finishing the third on Tuesday,” SCMP reported.

Xinjiang’s health committee first detected a new coronavirus outbreak in Kashgar (Kashi) prefecture on October 25.

Kashgar has a population of roughly 283,000 people. The county comprises 13 different ethnic groups including Han, Kyrgyz, Tajik, and Uyghurs, who make up the majority of Kashgar’s population. Greater Xinjiang, which borders Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, is also known for its Uyghur population.

The largely Muslim, Turkic-speaking Uyghurs often refer to their native region as “East Turkestan.” The ethnic group has been increasingly targeted by the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP)’s aggressive campaign of Han cultural assimilation. Human rights groups estimate that the CCP has detained one to three million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in state-run concentration camps in Xinjiang over the past few years for the purposes of this mass assimilation, which includes Communist political indoctrination.

The CCP officially refers to the detention facilities as vocational training centers and officially denies the existence of concentration camps in Xinjiang. Uyghur survivors of the camps say they were forced into slave labor and endured physical and sexual abuse.

Kashgar’s coronavirus outbreak last month was reportedly traced to a 17-year-old girl who worked in a local garment factory. The factory in which the teenager worked was linked to forced labor practices used by the CCP in their Uyghur detention facilities.

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