Caixin
Oct 05, 2021 08:21 PM

New Covid Cases Disrupt National Holiday Travel in Northwest China’s Xinjiang

Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region reported two cases of Covid-19 on Sunday.
Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region reported two cases of Covid-19 on Sunday.

Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region reported two asymptomatic cases of Covid-19 on Sunday, the third day of China’s weeklong National Day holiday, casting a shadow on the so-called Golden Week for domestic tourism business, which is slowly recovering from last year’s slump.

Both cases were reported in Yili prefecture. One of the two asymptomatic cases, who are related as mother and daughter, flew from Sichuan province to Yili two weeks ago. Her flight also made a stopover in Gansu province, according to an official statement released by local authorities on Monday.

“They’ve not been in any high-risk area or in contact with any confirmed cases,” reads the statement. However, the city did “attract a lot of tourists, so further epidemiological investigation is needed to trace the virus.”

The local government of Yili has taken prompt control measures, temporarily locking down prefectural capital Yining, closing highways and halting trains. Tourists are not allowed to leave the city for now, and many were stranded in the train station for hours.

The Yining Airport, which is the main airport in Yili, has suspended 26 flights by Monday noon, accounting for 68% of the total. As a precaution, the Urumqi Airport, which is located outside of the prefecture, has also suspended 165 flights, making up for more than 30% of the total, according to VariFlight, an aviation data platform.

The weeklong National Day holiday starting Oct. 1 is usually the key period for many provinces in Western and Central China, such as Xinjiang and Sichuan, to boost their tourism businesses, especially after being hurt last year, when less than 700 million trips were made during the National Day holiday, compared to almost 800 million the year before, according to report from state-broadcaster CCTV.

The three provinces mentioned in the official statement are popular tourist destinations. On Sept. 30, one day before the holiday week, Sichuan received 6.3% of national tourists, while Gansu and Xinjiang together accounted for about over 3% of the national total, according to a real-time migration tracking board developed by Baidu.

During China’s May Day holiday that begins on May 1, more than 200 million trips were made this year, a 120% year-on-year increase, which was close to the pre-epidemic level.

The flare-up in Xinjiang is the third in just one month in the country. Over a week ago, the city of Harbin in Northeast China’s Heilongjiang province reported multiple confirmed cases, with three pet cats being put down after testing positive for coronavirus. Not long before that, East China’s Fujian province reported almost 500 cases so far after an outbreak starting Sept. 10.

Contact reporter Manyun Zou (manyunzou@caixin.com) and editor Michael Bellart (michaelbellart@caixin.com)

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