BEIJING • China yesterday imposed a strict lockdown on hundreds of thousands of people near the capital to contain a fresh coronavirus outbreak, as the authorities warned it was too soon to "relax" over the new cluster of cases.
After China largely brought the virus under control, hundreds have now been infected in Beijing and cases have emerged in neighbouring Hebei province.
Health officials yesterday said Anxin county - about 150km from Beijing - will be "fully enclosed and controlled", with the same strict measures imposed at the height of the pandemic in the city of Wuhan earlier this year.
Only one person from each family will be allowed to go out once a day to buy necessities such as food and medicine, the county's epidemic prevention task force said.
Earlier, the county had been subject to some travel restrictions, but now individuals are allowed to leave their homes only to seek medical treatment.
The move comes after China reported 17 new coronavirus cases yesterday.
Of the total, 14 cases were in Beijing, while the rest were imported cases linked to travellers arriving from abroad.
That took the cumulative number of confirmed cases in China to 83,500. The death toll stood at 4,634, unchanged since mid-May.
The outbreak was first detected in Beijing's sprawling Xinfadi wholesale food market, which supplies much of the city's fresh produce, and sparked concerns over the safety of the food supply chain.
Businesses in Anxin county had supplied freshwater fish to the Xinfadi market, state news agency Xinhua reported.
The new cases in Beijing have prompted fears of a resurgence of the virus in China. The capital has mass-tested wholesale market workers, restaurant workers, residents of medium-and high-risk neighbourhoods and delivery couriers over the past week.
Testing has now expanded to include all employees of the city's beauty parlours and hair salons, the Global Times said.
Beijing city official Xu Hejian told reporters last Saturday: "There is no room for us to relax."
Local officials have urged people not to leave the city, closed schools again and locked down dozens of residential compounds to stamp out the virus.
But Dr Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiology expert at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, had told reporters last week the new outbreak had been "brought under control", and officials lifted a weeks-long lockdown imposed on seven communities in Beijing on Friday.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS