City Near Beijing Locked Down Amid Outbreak of Around 200 Cases

A city of 11 million people near China’s capital has been locked down after the emergence of some 200 virus cases, the worst outbreak in about two months in the country which has largely contained Covid-19 within its own borders.

Authorities in Shijiazhuang banned people and vehicles from leaving the city, located in the province of Hebei that surrounds Beijing, CCTV reported late Thursday. Nucleic acid testing will be rolled out city-wide, and five hospitals have been emptied to treat Covid patients, the state broadcaster said, citing Deputy Mayor Meng Xianghong.

Shijiazhuang and nearby Xingtai have found at least 90 confirmed cases and more than 100 asymptomatic infections, with the first case reported Jan. 2 in a woman, 61, who visited relatives and attended wedding celebrations before being diagnosed. While small compared with outbreaks in the U.S., India and parts of Europe, it is China’s largest since Xinjiang in the west reported a slew of cases in November, many detected as authorities tested millions of people across the region.

China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention said the virus strain in the latest outbreak is highly similar to those seen in Europe, though it’s still unknown how it first took hold locally. Shijiazhuang is around three hours drive south of Beijing, which has also seen a flare-up in cases in recent weeks.

Read more: China Is Making It Harder to Solve the Mystery of Where Covid Began

Since quashing the outbreak in Wuhan, the original epicenter of the virus, in early 2020, China has deployed a consistent playbook to mitigate Covid. All travelers entering the country are required to undertake quarantine of at least 14 days and mass testing is rolled out when even a handful of cases are detected. The country’s surveillance network is also used to track infections and people’s contacts.

— With assistance by Charlie Zhu, Winnie Zhu, and Dong Lyu

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