Yining, a city in the Xinjiang region of far-western China, celebrated a boom in Chinese tourists this summer seeking a sunny respite from Covid-19 worries in their home towns.
Now Yining is under its own grueling, weeks-long pandemic lockdown, with residents calling for help over limited food, and difficulty getting medicine, New York Times reported.
People in the city of 600,000 have been commanded to stay in their homes since early August, forcing many to rely largely on neighborhood officials to deliver supplies.
One resident contacted by telephone said that he received food every five days but that there was little of nutritional value – no fruit, vegetables or meat. He offered only his given name, Zubayr, fearing reprisals from officials over describing the tough conditions, the New York Times reported.
The conditions in Yining that people described online or in phone interviews echoed those of other cities in China that shut down to enforce the government’s commitment to “dynamic zero-Covid-19”, keeping infections of the coronavirus close to zero.
Some Shanghai residents complained loudly about food and medicine shortages earlier this year after officials there were overwhelmed during a citywide shutdown that lasted two months.
It is in the north-west corner of Xinjiang, an ethnically divided region that has faced a crackdown aimed at Uighurs, Kazakhs and other largely Muslim minorities. Late last month, the United Nations’ human rights office said the Chinese government’s mass detentions and other repressive measures in Xinjiang “may constitute international crimes, in particular, crimes against humanity”.
In recent days, complaints from Yining have generated a surge of online comments in China. Uighurs abroad have also shared messages describing poor conditions in quarantine facilities for residents suspected of having had close contact with infected people in Yining, which Uighurs call Ghulja, the NYT reported.
“I think what has happened in Shanghai gets more attention, as it’s a financial hub, and Chinese people can protest,” Ms Rayhan Asat, a Uighur human rights lawyer who is a fellow at Yale Law School.
“But things have gone so extreme and compelled people to call for attention,” she said of Yining and other locked down parts of Xinjiang. “Many don’t have the tools or the audacity to share what’s happening to them individually.”
In the coming weeks, other cities across China may come under similar pressures.
The Communist Party will hold a major congress in mid-October, when delegates are poised to anoint Mr Xi Jinping to another five years as national leader, and local authorities are under intense pressure to stanch outbreaks of Covid-19 that could sully or disrupt the meeting.
Until late July, officials in Yining appeared jubilant about the return of tourists to the area. In past years, many visitors had been deterred by the intimidating security crackdown and warnings across Xinjiang and then by Covid-19, the New York Times reported.
Washington state Gov. Inslee tests positive for COVID-19
Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee has tested positive for COVID-19 for the second time.
Inslee’s office said in a statement Wednesday that he had tested positive and was experiencing very mild symptoms including a cough. He is consulting with his doctor about whether to receive Paxlovid antiviral treatments, according to the statement.
He plans to continue working. Trudi Inslee, the first spouse, has tested negative.
Inslee, who throughout the pandemic pushed for mitigation measures including indoor mask-wearing and restrictions on large public gatherings, is fully vaccinated and had booster shots in October 2021 and March 2022 and September 2022, according to his office.
“Once again I am very appreciative to be vaccinated and boosted,” Inslee said in the statement. “This is a scientific gift that has given us the capacity to prevent hospitalizations or worse. I encourage folks who haven’t received their booster to talk with their doctor and avail themselves of this protective, life-saving measure.”
Only 15% of Americans have received the recommended, updated booster that has been offered since last fall.
The governor also tested positive for COVID last May.
President Joe Biden told Congress this week that he will end the national emergencies for addressing COVID-19 on May 11.
Inslee ended the state of emergency in Washington at the end of October.
More than 1.1 million people in the country have died from COVID-19 since 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including about 3,700 last week. More than 15,000 people in Washington have died from the virus.
COVID-19 is a leading cause of death among children, but is still rare
COVID-19 was the eighth leading cause of death among children in recent months, according to a study published Monday.
In a year-long period from August 2021 to July 2022, 821 children ages 0 to 19 died from COVID-19 at a rate of 1 per 100,000. Children’s deaths of any kind are rare, researchers noted.
COVID-19 ranked fifth in non-disease-related deaths and first in infectious or respiratory illness deaths, overtaking the flu and pneumonia, NPR reported.
Before the pandemic, in 2019, the leading causes of death among children were perinatal conditions, unintentional injuries, birth defects, assault, suicide, cancerous tumors, heart disease and influenza and pneumonia.
The time period researchers analyzed coincided with the rise of Delta and Omicron COVID-19 cases. They found that studying other 12-month periods during the pandemic did not change the results.
Researchers noted their results were limited by the underreporting of COVID-19 cases, and the exclusion of deaths where COVID-19 could have been a contributing or amplifying factor in tandem with other conditions, such as influenza, NPR reported.
WHO: COVID still an emergency but nearing ‘inflection’ point
The coronavirus remains a global health emergency, the World Health Organization chief said Monday, after a key advisory panel found the pandemic may be nearing an “inflexion point” where higher levels of immunity can lower virus-related deaths, AP reported.
Speaking at the opening of WHO’s annual executive board meeting, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “there is no doubt that we’re in a far better situation now” than a year ago — when the highly transmissible Omicron variant was at its peak.
But Tedros warned that in the last eight weeks, at least 170,000 people have died around the world in connection with the coronavirus. He called for at-risk groups to be fully vaccinated, an increase in testing and early use of antivirals, an expansion of lab networks, and a fight against “misinformation” about the pandemic.
“We remain hopeful that in the coming year, the world will transition to a new phase in which we reduce hospitalizations and deaths to the lowest possible level,” he said.
Tedros’ comments came moments after WHO released findings of its emergency committee on the pandemic which reported that some 13.1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered — with nearly 90% of health workers and more than four in five people over 60 years of age having completed the first series of jabs.
“The committee acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic may be approaching an inflexion point,” WHO said in a statement. Higher levels of immunity worldwide through vaccination or infection “may limit the impact” of the virus that causes COVID-19 on “morbidity and mortality,” the committee said.
“(B)ut there is little doubt that this virus will remain a permanently established pathogen in humans and animals for the foreseeable future,” it said. While Omicron versions are easily spread, “there has been a decoupling between infection and severe disease” compared to that of earlier variants.
Committee members cited “pandemic fatigue” and the increasing public perception that COVID-19 isn’t as much of a risk as it once was, leading to people to increasingly ignore or disregard health measures like mask-wearing and social distancing.
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