By Riyaz ul Khaliq
ISTANBUL (AA) – The “most difficult” resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Xinjiang has forced authorities to close travel out of the region as China proceeds to host the country’s biggest political summit this month.
All passenger train services out of the western autonomous province of China have been suspended “to stop the spread of COVID-19, as officials admit their inadequate actions have hampered attempts to curb the outbreak for the past two months,” daily South China Morning Post reported on Wednesday.
Local authorities in Xinjiang have admitted “shortcomings that led to a resurgence in cases since mid-September.”
However, they said they would “prevent the virus from spreading beyond the region.”
Chinese authorities have adopted a strict virus prevention model, including lockdowns, known as the “Zero-COVID” strategy to halt the spread of the infection.
The rise in cases in Xinjiang comes just days before Beijing hosts the biggest gathering of the Communist Party of China, held once in five years.
“The outbreak that was effectively controlled by the end of August saw a rebound because people became relaxed and measures were not strictly put in place,” said Liu Sushe, vice-chairman of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, on Tuesday evening.
Chinese state-run Global Times said the latest epidemic “is a major public health emergency and the most difficult to prevent and control in local history.”
It said 91 new local asymptomatic cases were recorded on Tuesday, bringing the total to 354 in the region.
Capital Urumqi, Yining and Turpan saw a rise, “making the wave of infections difficult to control,” Liu said.
“The rebound led to local spread and spillover to many other provinces, causing trouble for COVID-19 control in neighboring provinces, and the country,” Liu said.
“We have not been able to achieve dynamic zero COVID-19 for more than two months because of the highly infectious BA.5.2 variant and the ineffectiveness of our control measures,” he said.
The official pointed to low testing capacity and “lack of professionalism among staff who mishandled samples and became infected because of inadequate protection.”
Many social media users had in the recent past also complained of “serious shortages of food and supplies” due to strict restrictions imposed in some parts of the province, home to Uyghurs who are mostly Muslims.