Flights cancelled after coronavirus reported in China’s Xinjiang

AlJazeera, 17 July 2020

Below is an article published by AlJazeera, Photo GREG BAKER/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Hundreds of flights to and from Urumqi, the capital of China’s far western region of Xinjiang, were cancelled on Friday, after the region reported the first confirmed case of coronavirus in about five months.

Epidemic control measures prompted the cancellation of more than 600 scheduled flights at Urumqi Diwopu International Airport, or more than 80 percent of the day’s total, figures from aviation data firm Variflight showed. The state-owned Global Times said 89 percent of all inbound and outbound flights had been cancelled.

Metro services were also suspended from late on Thursday, and bus services in a district neighbouring the city closed down with all front line workers to undergo COVID-19 testing, according to state media.

China’s National Health Commission reported 10 new confirmed cases, one a locally transmitted case in Xinjiang and nine involving international travellers from abroad.

On Thursday, health authorities in Urumqi said a 24-year-old woman with symptoms such as a sore throat, fever and headaches, tested positive for the virus. Three people with whom she had close contact tested positive but did not show symptoms. An asymptomatic case involving someone travelling from Xinjiang was also reported in the eastern province of Zhejiang.

Xinjiang is home to the mainly Muslim Uighur people and has been subject to intense state control in recent years. The UN estimates about one million Uighurs have been detained in re-education camps that China describes as vocational skills training centres necessary to combat “extremism”. 

On Friday, provinces and airlines moved swiftly to impose strict health screening measures on people arriving from Xinjiang. Donghai Airlines, which is based in Shenzhen in the south, said that from Friday all people travelling from Urumqi would need to show a negative COVID-19 test taken within the past seven days.  

Mainland China had confirmed 83,622 cases of coronavirus by the end of Thursday, with 4,634 deaths. A further 104 asymptomatic patients are under observation.

Beijing, which suffered a fresh outbreak last month, reported no new cases for an 11th consecutive day.