137 new coronavirus cases in China after outbreak at Xinjiang garment factory

Protesters in an anti-lockdown demonstration in Melbourne, Victoria, last Friday.
Protesters in an anti-lockdown demonstration in Melbourne, Victoria, last Friday. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BEIJING • China detected 137 new asymptomatic coronavirus cases yesterday in Kashgar, in the north-western 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 last Saturday to have the virus but showed no symptoms worked there, an official from the 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 last Saturday night covering the region's 4.75 million people. As at yesterday afternoon, more than 2.84 million people had been tested and the rest will be covered by tomorrow, the city government said in a statement.

The Kashgar government yesterday said all schools except universities will be closed until Friday, but supermarkets and shopping malls will remain open.

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

Meanwhile, Victoria state, Australia's Covid-19 epicentre, yesterday delayed an expected announcement on the easing of lockdown restrictions due to an outbreak in Melbourne, prompting warnings that residents were at a "financial and mental breaking point".

The restrictions have limited most retail businesses in the state's capital to providing only online services since early August, and five million people living under stay-at-home orders were expecting an announcement yesterday.

State Premier Daniel Andrews told a media conference yesterday that the outbreak in Melbourne's northern suburbs threatened to push the reopening date of retail and hospitality businesses closer to Nov 1.

Mr Andrews said he decided to wait until test results showed whether or not all infections in the latest outbreak were linked.

"We will get (the test results) today and tomorrow and hopefully we are able to (not only make) announcements but also take the big steps safely around the middle of this week," he said. "I know everyone will be disappointed we're not making that move today. I am too."

The federal government and industry leaders have been putting increasing pressure on Mr Andrews to fully reopen the city and the rest of the state. The 14-day moving average of new cases in Victoria fell to 4.6, below the threshold of five which Mr Andrews had previously set for the next band of restrictions to be lifted.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2020, with the headline '137 new cases in China after outbreak at Xinjiang garment factory'. Print Edition | Subscribe