Asia Today: Outbreak in northwest China spreads to 2nd city

A man wearing a face mask to protect against the new coronavirus opens his health code on his smartphone before entering a cafe at a shopping district...
A man wearing a face mask to protect against the new coronavirus puts his masked child on his shoulders as they visit to a shopping district in Beijin...

A man wearing a face mask to protect against the new coronavirus opens his health code on his smartphone before entering a cafe at a shopping district...

A man wearing a face mask to protect against the new coronavirus puts his masked child on his shoulders as they visit to a shopping district in Beijin...

BEIJING (AP) — China’s latest coronavirus outbreak has spread to a second city in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

One of the 17 new cases reported on Monday was in the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar, the regional government said on its official microblog. The remainder were in the regional capital of Urumqi, where all other cases have been reported since the outbreak that has now infected at least 47 people emerged earlier this month.

Authorities in Urumqi have tried to prevent the spread by closing off communities and imposing travel restrictions.

Xinjiang is a vast, thinly populated region of mountains and deserts and had seen little impact from the pandemic that emerged from the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year and was largely contained within China in March.

Another five new cases reported Monday by the National Health Commission were imported.

Beijing, meanwhile, has gone 14 days without a case of local transmission, and city authorities on Sunday said they were downgrading the emergency response level from two to three. The move is largely symbolic, with measures including mandatory social distancing, temperature checks and 14-day quarantines for passengers arriving from abroad remaining in place.

China also Monday reported 5,370 people had been arrested for pandemic-related crimes between January and June. More than 40% were charged with fraud, the state prosecutor’s office announced on its official microblog. Another 15% were charged with obstruction of law enforcement, with others accused of producing and selling fake and shoddy goods, creating public disturbances and transporting and selling endangered species.

China has strengthened protection for wild animals following the emergence of the virus, which may have originated in bats before jumping to humans via an intermediary species such as the anteater-like pangolin.

No specific figures were given for those accused of violating quarantine rules and travel restrictions, although there have been relatively few such cases reported in official media.

Although faulted for allowing the virus to spread from Wuhan, China’s government has been credited with imposing rigid and sometimes draconian measures to contain the outbreak, and people have overwhelmingly complied with orders to wear masks, display certificates of good health and maintain social distancing.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— Australia’s hard-hit Victoria state reported 275 more COVID-19 cases on Monday, a third daily figure that was below last Friday's peak. Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said the impact of the lockdown on Australia’s second-largest city Melbourne should become apparent Wednesday, which is two weeks after the six-week shutdown began. “It is a wicked enemy, it is unstable and until we bring some stability to this, I don’t think we’ll be able to talk about a trend,” Andrews said. Victoria had conducted more than 1.3 million coronavirus tests among a population of 6.5 million, which represented one of the highest testing rates in the world, he said.

— South Korea has reported its smallest daily jump in local COVID-19 transmissions in two months as health authorities express cautious optimism that the outbreak is being brought under control. South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday still reported 26 newly confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including 22 that were tied to international arrivals. Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said the four local cases were the first below 10 since May 19. He continued to plead for vigilance, encouraging people to avoid crowded places or even stay at home during the summer holiday period.