China has sent a team of medical experts to Urumqi as local authorities said that they would adopt aggressive testing to contain the latest outbreak after a spike in coronavirus infections.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Urumqi, capital of the western region of Xinjiang, rose sharply on Friday, taking the total reported since Thursday to 17, according to local health authorities.
A total of 11 new cases were reported between Friday and Saturday noon, according to the regional government’s official news portal. A total of 269 people are under medical observation.
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There have also been 23 asymptomatic cases recorded since the start of the latest outbreak, but these are not included in the list of confirmed cases in defiance of World Health Organisation guidelines suggesting they should be.
Feng Zijian, the deputy director of China’s Centre for Disease Control said the team, headed by officials from the National Health Commission, arrived in Xinjiang on Saturday to assess the situation, according to China Newsweek magazine.
Meanwhile, 21 medical technicians from Wuhan, the centre of China’s outbreak in February, arrived in Urumqi Saturday morning, Changjiang Daily reported.
They have brought testing equipment and will join colleagues from Jiangsu and Sichuan helping local medical staff carry out nucleic acid tests, news portal thepaper.cn reported.
In an apparent effort to curb the virus spreading, Xinjiang government announced on Saturday that Urumqi, a city with a population of 3.5 million, had gone into “wartime mode” with all residential compounds being sealed off and public gatherings banned.
Local residents are being encouraged to stay in the city while those who have to leave must take tests.
Anyone who works with close contacts or who live in the same compounds must also be tested.
The source of the new infections remains unclear, but Rui Baoling, director of the city’s disease control and prevention centre, said the confirmed cases, all in Tianshan district, were linked to a cluster outbreak.
The local health authority has asked for genomic sequencing of all the cases to identify the source of the outbreak, Rui said.
Local media reports said the city’s first case in 150 days was a 24-year-old woman who worked at a shopping centre in the Tianshan district.
She was sent to a local hospital by ambulance after developing symptoms on Tuesday. She tested positive on the next day.
The city’s only subway line was closed and its main bus operator said all services would be suspended while drivers and other staff members were tested for the coronavirus.
Zeng Guang, a member of the National Health Commission’s expert panel and former chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said it was possible more cases would emerge in the coming days and the public should be prepared.
“Once a case is confirmed, the key is to trace the source, to clarify where it came from and with whom the patient was in contact,” he was quoted as saying by Health Times, a newspaper affiliated to Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily.
“The coronavirus is complicated and changing fast … and sporadic Covid-19 cases are likely to become the new normal in the pandemic fight,” he said.
The Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region has borders with Mongolia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Russia.
Kazakhstan has been under total lockdown since July 5 after it reported a spike in coronavirus infections and pneumonia cases.
According to a report by Beijing Youth Daily, the Xinjiang government ran a simulation of its emergency response procedures at border ports in early June, at which time Li Peng, the region’s deputy party chief, vowed to “keep every emergency … under control”.
Meanwhile, Beijing, which was hit by a fresh Covid-19 outbreak last month, reported a single asymptomatic case on Friday, after 12 days with no infections at all.
And in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, authorities reported that a 31-year-old woman and her 11-year-old son who were visiting the city from Hong Kong had been confirmed as being infected with the coronavirus.
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This article China coronavirus: medical teams sent to fight outbreak in Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi first appeared on South China Morning Post