Xinjiang Covid Outbreak Is China’s Biggest Since Summer

A testing blitz in China’s far west region of Xinjiang uncovered the country’s worst Covid-19 outbreak since the summer, even as authorities said all infections have been found.

Authorities in the region -- the epicenter of Beijing’s crackdown on ethnic Muslim Uighurs -- reported six new so-called asymptomatic infections on Monday. Xinjiang’s tally since the outbreak began with the detection of an asymptomatic 17-year-old on Oct. 24 stands at 57 infections and 223 asymptomatic cases, Xinjiang’s health commission reported. Nine people are in “severe condition,” authorities said.

There were 61 asymptomatic infections reported on Saturday.

The new cases emerged after China tested millions of people across the region last week. Some of the asymptomatic infections were found in a county near the outbreak’s original epicenter in Kashgar prefecture, raising fears that the virus is spreading.

The outbreak is China’s worst since a June-July surge in Beijing saw more than 330 cases in less than a month. While Xinjiang’s outbreak is so far smaller than the one that hit the Chinese capital, the detection of dozens of asymptomatic cases underscores the difficulty of stamping out the virus even with some of the world’s most aggressive testing and contact tracing measures.

Roughly the size of Alaska, Xinjiang has a population of 22 million, or around 1.5% of the national total. Beijing, whose rights record in the province has drawn global criticism, maintains that it’s fighting separatism and religious extremism among Uighurs -- and has made the region one of China’s most-surveilled.

Gu Yingsu, deputy director of Xinjiang’s health commission, said at a press conference Saturday that the second round of testing had been completed and that all those found to have Covid-19 were in quarantine.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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