Xinjiang officials on Tuesday ruled out a link between new coronavirus infections in Kashgar and earlier cases in Urumqi, as health authorities stepped up efforts to find the source of the latest outbreak in the far western border city.
They also said nucleic acid tests had been completed for all 4.74 million residents of Kashgar in just four days since the first case was detected on Saturday.
Li Linyu, Communist Party secretary of the health commission in Kashgar, said at a press briefing there were now five confirmed cases in the city, but there were 178 asymptomatic cases – people who had tested positive but did not have symptoms.
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He said the five confirmed cases had previously been classified as asymptomatic and he expected more infections to be confirmed in the coming days.
Other officials at the briefing said that while the latest outbreak in Kashgar had been traced to a clothing factory in a village in Shufu county, it was still unclear how the virus had spread there.
Li said virologists and experts had compared the genetic sequence of the coronavirus collected from the outbreaks in Kashgar and Urumqi and concluded there was no connection.
Urumqi – the regional capital of Xinjiang that is home to 3.5 million people – was put under strict lockdown in July after it reported over a dozen cases in a local district.
Li said none of the new cases in Kashgar had been in contact with known Covid-19 patients and they were not involved in handling cold food or wild animals – two areas that are believed to be high-risk for transmission.
According to health officials in Kashgar, the first confirmed case in the latest outbreak was a 17-year-old girl who worked at a Shufu clothing factory but did not have any travel history outside the county.
She was found to be positive after a routine test, but other workers at the factory and close contacts tested negative.
Most of the other cases were reported in another clothing factory in the same county where the teenager’s parents work.
In response to the latest outbreak in Kashgar, a number of Chinese cities and provinces have stepped up travel restrictions for people from the city. In the southwest province of Yunnan, travellers from Shufu county are required to quarantine for 14 days and they will be only be released after two negative test results.
Travellers from other parts of Kashgar must also show a negative test result before they can enter other places.
In Beijing, residents have been told to avoid unnecessary travel to Kashgar, while anyone who has been in the Xinjiang city in the past 14 days has been told to monitor their health and see a doctor if they have any symptoms.
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