China's Kashgar detects 137 new asymptomatic COVID cases

FILE PHOTO: A medical worker in protective suit collects a swab from a child for nucleic acid testing, following new cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Qingdao, Shandong province, China October 13, 2020. Picture taken October 13, 2020. cnsphoto via REUTERS

BEIJING (Reuters) - China detected 137 new asymptomatic coronavirus cases on Sunday in Kashgar in the northwestern region of Xinjiang after one person was found to have the virus the previous day - the first local new cases for 10 days in mainland China.

All 137 new cases were linked to a garment factory. The parents of a 17-year-old girl who was found on Saturday to have the virus but showed no symptoms worked there, an official from Xinjiang health commission told a press briefing.

The new cases marked mainland China’s first local infections since Oct. 14, when one was detected in Qingdao. Xinjiang was the site of a local cluster in August, but no new cases had been found in the region since Aug. 15.

Kashgar launched a testing programme on Saturday night covering the region’s 4.75 million people. As of Sunday afternoon, more than 2.84 million people had been tested and the rest would be covered by Tuesday, the city government said in a statement.

The Kashgar government said on Sunday all schools except universities will be closed through Friday but supermarkets and shopping malls would remain open.

Four towns in the Kashgar region were identified as “high-risk” areas, according to a statement from Kashgar city authority on Sunday night, and stringent controls such as travel restrictions are expected.

China’s national health commission dispatched experts on Sunday to guide coronavirus control work in the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar.

The novel coronavirus was first identified in the central Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of last year. As of Saturday, mainland China had 85,790 confirmed coronavirus cases, the health authority said. The COVID-19 death toll stands at 4,634.

Reporting by Muyu Xu, Shen Yan, Brenda Goh and Ryan Woo; Editing by William Mallard, Frances Kerry and Nick Macfie