China launches emergency testing to control new Kashgar outbreak

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

A 17-year-old teenager in Kashgar prefecture was found through routine testing to have contracted the virus. Subsequent testing found 137 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, in the far west of China. As of 2 p.m. Sunday, 2.83 million people had undergone testing, while results for 334,800 people have already come out negative.

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 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, the country continues to see small flare-ups, with the most recent in the eastern port city of Qingdao earlier this month. It 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 stamping out 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 stamp out each new cluster, even as the U.S. and Europe struggle with fresh waves of record infections.

China launches emergency testing to control new Kashgar outbreak