Xinjiang Officials Refute Claims Travelers Stranded by COVID to Take Up Local Work

Various Chinese social media accounts spread a message recently stating that travelers stranded in Xinjiang due to an ongoing surge in COVID cases could consider finding jobs in the local area, prompting a range of questions from web users. On the evening of October 8, local authorities said the message was a misinterpretation of the current situation.

The message originated from a press conference on pandemic prevention and control held by the Information Office of the Urumqi Municipal People’s Government on October 6. According to statements made at the meeting, all trains and buses departing from Urumqi have been suspended since October 4, leaving some passengers stranded at the railway station. By the end of October 6, there were 86 passengers stranded at the station. They were mainly travelers who had come to work, visit relatives or seek medical treatment, and most have no fixed residence in the city.

Furthermore, in order to assist migrant workers that are among the stranded passengers, officials stated that local personnel will collect employment intentions, contact enterprises in need of labor, and recommend workers with experience in circuits, welding, cooking, wooden masonry, and other fields.

Despite the official response, some netizens questioned the policy, calling it “a different kind of talent introduction policy” and asking, “you can get a job, you can work, but you can’t go home?” Some claimed that they couldn’t get out of their hotel and still needed to pay fees.

Many passengers stranded in Xinjiang posted that they had been caught off guard by the restrictions. They claimed they consulted officials and got a reassuring response before traveling in Xinjiang, only to find the policy had changed a few days later.

The COVID outbreak in Xinjiang is still severe. From 00:00 to 21:00 on October 8, six new local confirmed cases and 226 asymptomatic infections were reported in Urumqi. In addition to solving the employment problem, Xinjiang has designated temporary resettlement areas, distributed masks and carried out daily nucleic acid tests.

During the recent National Day holiday, many people in China had travel plans affected by the pandemic. Data from the country’s Ministry of Transport showed that from October 1 to 7, China’s railways, roads, waterways and civil aviation companies are expected to have managed a total of 255.5411 million passengers, with an average of 36.506 million passengers per day, down 36.4% from the same period in 2021 and 41.4% from the same period in 2020.

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Recent outbreaks in several tourist cities have also raised concerns. On October 6, Fenghuang County in Hunan Province temporarily implemented strict control in the county’s urban area. The local government has provided measures for stranded tourists and will offer them free tours of A-level scenic spots throughout the country in 2023.