Is now Kashgar, enclave of mythical reminiscences, a mandatory stop in that millenary silk Road and the cradle of the Uyghur ethnic group. Its nearly five million residents are being tested on the run after an asymptomatic positive was detected on Saturday. At noon on Sunday, half the population had already been covered and tomorrow Tuesday the mission will be completed. Before was Wuhan o Qingdao: a handful of cases were enough for an entire city to be closed and its population analyzed. Kashgar pushes the formula to the extreme: one has sufficed.
According to the local press, 137 cases have already emerged from the massive testing, all asymptomatic. The origin of the outbreak is a 17-year-old girl who works in a garment factory in Shufu County, on the outskirts of Kashgar, and who in a routine test it tested positive. The immediate tests on the 800 workers were negative and in the reconstruction of their steps they reached the factory of her parents, which the young woman had visited a week ago for dinner. All the cases are linked to that factory.
The outbreak has sparked a reaction to use, with strict internal and external movement restrictions. More than half the flights had already been canceled as of Saturday, the same day the first positive emerged, and the departure from Kashgar now requires a negative test. All schools will be closed until next week even though shopping centers and supermarkets are still open.
The country from which the pandemic emerged at the end of last year is today the most armored. Most of the positives are travelers from abroad who are quickly detected at the airport or in the subsequent hotel quarantine. A dozen infections registered in mid-October in the coastal city of Qingdao cut a two-month streak with no local infections. This is the second outbreak to affect Xinjiang province, in the westernmost part of the country and bordering Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan. A chain of infections located in July in the capital, Urumqi, justified the strong provincial lock for five weeks even in cities hundreds of kilometers away. Xinjiang, the cradle of the Uighur ethnic group, occupies the international interest in recent months for the repressive policies and forced displacement from the local population to internment camps that Beijing justifies in its fight against fundamentalist terrorism.
Some scientific voices have questioned the need for city-wide testing for a few localized cases. Even Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Center for Disease Prevention and Control, suggested last week that testing at the focus of the outbreak and extending it to a reasonable area would suffice if no more cases emerged. But Beijing remains attached to a formula that sins more by excess than by default and which keeps the virus at bay when the world deals with second waves and curfews.