China Tests Millions in Xinjiang After Asymptomatic Cases Found

China has tested nearly three million people in Xinjiang province to tackle a small cluster of coronavirus cases, in the latest example of the country’s aggressive approach to bringing new outbreaks under control.

A 17-year-old teenager in the province’s Kashgar prefecture was found through routine testing to have contracted the virus. Subsequent testing found 137 Covid-19 cases, all related to a factory where the teenager’s parents worked. Each of the cases were asymptomatic, according to Xinjiang’s health authorities.

Free testing is being rolled out for nearly 4.75 million people in Kashgar, which is located in the far west of China. As of 2 p.m. local time on Sunday, 2.83 million people had undergone virus testing, and 334,800 people have already been determined as negative.

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Authorities have implemented controls on mobility within 10 kilometers of the county where the cluster was found, but transportation in the region remains open and residents can leave if they have tested negative within the past seven days. No restrictions are placed on external visitors.

While new infections in China had remained below 100 a day since mid-August, with most of them imported from overseas, the nation continues to see small flare-ups, with the most recent in the eastern port city of Qingdao earlier this month. China has managed to stamp out these clusters -- including an outbreak in Beijing in June -- through mass testing campaigns that screen millions of citizens for the virus within days.

The new outbreak in Kashgar reflects the difficulty of eliminating the coronavirus entirely in any one country. Other Asian nations like Thailand and New Zealand have maintained long stretches of virus-free periods, only to see the pathogen appear again. Still, China so far has been able to snuff out each new cluster, even as the U.S. and Europe struggle with fresh waves of record infections.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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