China has put nearly half-a-million residents into a strict lockdown near Beijing after a surge in coronavirus cases.
The emergency measures have been put in place in Hebei province, 80 miles from China’s capital, which recently saw an outbreak linked to a wholesale food market.
The lockdown measures affect around 400,000 people in Anxin county, which means only essential workers can leave their homes.
One member of a household in the area will be allowed to leave once a day to shop for essential supplies.
According to local reports, there have been 18 cases in Anxin since Beijing saw a spike in Covid-19 cases two weeks ago.
But officials say they are optimistic the spread can be contained as the area is not densely populated.
The recent surge in cases in Beijing has been linked to the Xinfadi meat market, which is 20 times larger than the Wuhan wet market where the pandemic started.
The market tested 4,000 tenants and was disinfected after workers there tested positive and the virus was found in the environment, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
Two of the first people to be infected had been to the market and a third worked with one of them at a meat research institute, according to Chinese media reports.
Another seafood market visited by one of the patients, was also closed for disinfection and sample collection.
Chinese health officials have warned the country was at ‘very high risk’ of a second deadly wave following the fresh outbreak.
There have been more than 300 new confirmed cases in Beijing since the middle of June after reporting no cases for 57 days.
People have been urged not to leave the capital, while schools have closed again.
China has always insisted that the outbreak began in a so-called wet market in Wuhan, where live animals were being sold.
Health authorities in Beijing believe the virus came from an animal in Huanan market, Wuhan.
The market was closed by officials a day after the World Health Organisation was informed in December.
But other research has suggested the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak may have started in October – two months earlier than previously thought.
Satellite pictures show Wuhan hospital car parks were far busier in October last year than during the same month in 2018.
An analysis of the Chinese internet giant Baidu also revealed a spike in ‘cough’ and ‘diarrhea’ searches in October last year.
Researchers now believe the outbreak started far earlier than December 31, when China first reported it the World Health Organization.