China has detected 137 new asymptomatic
Kashgar in the north-western region of Xinjiang after one person was found to have the virus the previous day – the first new local cases for 10 days in mainland China.
All the cases detected on Sunday were linked to a garment factory where the parents of a 17-year-old girl who was found on Saturday to have the virus – but showed no symptoms – worked, a Xinjiang health commission official told a press briefing, The Guardian reported.
The new cases marked mainland China’s first local infections since 14 October, when one was detected in Qingdao. Xinjiang was the site of a local cluster in August, which prompted a “wartime state” of lockdown in the capital Urumqi, but no new cases had been found in the region since 15 August.
Residents reported confusion on Saturday afternoon as flights in and out of Kashgar were suddenly cancelled, and police authorities posted and then deleted a social media message reminding people to wear masks and “not believe or spread rumors”.
Authorities later announced the asymptomatic case and launched a testing program on Saturday night covering the region’s 475 million people. As of Sunday afternoon, more than 284 million people had been tested and the rest would be covered by Tuesday, the city government said in a statement.
|The new cases mark mainland China’s first local infections since 14 October (Photo: Xinhua)|
During China's initial outbreak, Xinjiang was subjected to strict lockdown measures on par with those imposed in the city of Wuhan -- the original epicenter of the virus, despite having reported only some 70 cases and three deaths.
In July and August, a cluster of fresh cases in the regional capital of Urumqi brought Xinjiang into a prolonged, stringent lockdown of more than 40 days, drawing backlash from residents on social media.
Many complained that the restrictions were too strict and unnecessarily wide in scope -- covering cities without any reported cases hundreds of miles away from Urumqi. The lockdown was finally lifted at the end of August, only after no locally transmitted cases had been reported for two weeks.
As reported by CNN, swift and drastic measures such as mass testing, extensive contact tracing, and strict lockdown have defined China's response to sporadic local outbreaks since it largely contained the coronavirus midway through this year.
Earlier this month, the eastern port city of Qingdao tested more than 10 million people in just four days over a dozen locally transmitted cases.
But some public health experts have questioned the effectiveness of citywide testing, given that patients are usually identified over a range of time. An infected patient might test negative, then days later test positive -- so hidden cases can't all be caught at once.
Even the chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has questioned the necessity of such an exhaustive approach.
|(Photo: Getty Images)|
" From the scientific perspective of the spread of the infectious disease, there is indeed no need to conduct citywide testing ," Wu Zunyou told the state-run news magazine China Newsweek Saturday.
He advised cities to focus testing on the source of the outbreak and radiate to a certain area around it.
"When no more cases can be detected, (the testing drive) can be terminated. There is no need to cover the whole cit y," he said.
China's approach is reportedly a stark contrast to that of the United States, where White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Sunday that the Trump administration would not "control the pandemic." Beijing, on the other hand, is investing immense resources to control the spread of the virus, including millions of tests in response to even small clusters and the firing of local health officials deemed responsible.
A similar testing campaign was carried out earlier this month in coastal Qingdao: Authorities ordered all 11 million residents to be tested after the discovery of a cluster of 12 cases, half of them symptomatic.
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