China Seals Off A Third City, Moves 20,000 Residents To Isolation Centers As COVID Second Wave Surges

China has sealed off a third city and moved 20,000 residents to isolation centres as the country fights against a fresh coronavirus outbreak. 

Chinese authorities locked down the city of Langfang in Hebei Province near Beijing on Tuesday, putting its 4.9million residents under quarantine for seven days while conducting mass COVID-19 testing. 

More than 20,000 villagers in Hebei city Shijiazhuang have been forced to leave their homes and sent to designated isolation facilities since yesterday as footage shows flocks of people standing on the streets carrying suitcases, waiting to be transported.

One year after the coronavirus outbreak rocked Wuhan, Hebei in north China has emerged to be China's new COVID-19 epicentre after recording the country's largest outbreak since last July.

China had locked down two cities, Shijiazhuang and Xingtai, as new cases erupted in the northern Chinese region surrounding the capital city Beijing, raising worries about a fresh wave of cases in a nation that had mostly contained the disease.

Shijiazhuang, Hebei's capital, has been hardest hit in the latest surge in infections and has already placed its 11million people under lockdown. 

The province has shut off certain sections of highways and is ordering vehicles registered to Shijiazhuang to turn back. 

On Tuesday, the officials sealed off Langfang, a city only 64 kilometres (40 miles) away from Beijing. Residents and vehicles are banned from entering or leaving the area unless it's for emergency. 

Gaocheng district in Shijiazhuang is gathering more than 20,000 people living in 12 remote villages into centralised quarantine as part of the city's COVID-19 control, state media China News Service reported late Monday. 

In a video widely shared online, families are seen carrying suitcases and bags as they wait to board the coaches that would transport them to the designated isolation centres. 

The drastic measure came after a brunt of infections in Hebei were found among the local villages in Gaocheng's Zengcun Town, according to China News.

The news comes as China is bracing the country's largest COVID-19 outbreak in six months. On Monday, China's National Health Commission reported 103 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 82 in Hebei, and 76 asymptomatic cases.

This is the first time the country's daily infection number has surpassed 100 since last July.  

The officials reported 55 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, down from 103 a day earlier and remaining a small fraction of what it saw at the height of the outbreak in early 2020.

However, local authorities are implementing strict curbs whenever new cases emerge to prevent the kind of economic paralysis seen a year ago.

Two counties under Langfang's jurisdiction that border Beijing - Guan and Sanhe - had already announced home quarantine measures. Guan reported one new COVID-19 case but Sanhe did not say whether any of its residents were diagnosed with the disease. 

At a village in the south of Beijing that shares a border with Hebei, residents were stopping vehicles and asking to see health-tracking codes on mobile phones.

'Measures have tightened since January 8,' said a volunteer security officer surnamed Wang. 'We've to be careful as we're near Guan, where COVID cases were reported today.'

At a Beijing highway checkpoint near the border with Hebei, police officers in protective gowns ordered a car entering Beijing to return to Hebei after the driver was unable to show proof that he had passed a COVID-19 test.

A new guideline issued by the Beijing Centre for Disease Prevention and Control recommended that taxi and ride-hailing operators suspend car-pooling services, the Communist Party-backed Beijing Daily reported on Tuesday.

The guideline also said that drivers should get a nucleic acid test for coronavirus every week and be vaccinated in order to work.

Authorities in Wuhan, where COVID-19 first emerged in late 2019, on Monday launched contact tracing work after two infected people from Hebei visited the city.

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reported in mainland China now stands at 87,591, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.

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