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Covid: China places 11m under lockdown after outbreak in northern city

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Hebei's capital Shijiazhuang has banned people from leaving the city in an escalation of travel curbs

Total new Covid-19 cases for all of mainland China stood at 63, compared with 32 reported a day earlier, marking the biggest rise in daily cases since 127 cases were reported on July 30.

China has placed 11 million people in the northern city of Shijiazhuang under lockdown after more than 100 new Covid cases were confirmed there. Shijiazhuang is about three hours drive south of Beijing, which has also seen a flare-up in cases in recent weeks.

Shijiazhuang and nearby Xingtai have found at least 90 confirmed cases and more than 100 asymptomatic infections, with the first case reported January 2 in a woman, 61, who visited relatives and attended wedding celebrations before being diagnosed.

The virus was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019 before spiralling into a global pandemic.

The curbs came at a time when the nation is set to mark one of its major festivals Lunar New Year for which millions of people travel.

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, medical workers take swabs from residents in Shijiazhuang in north China's Hebei province on January 6. The province entered a "wartime mode" this week to battle the infections. Doctors are working nonstop to process millions of COVID-19 testing samples.

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.

China largely controlled the pandemic after it emerged for the first time late in 2019 and mass testing, travel curbs and local lockdowns were used to control smaller outbreaks a year ago.

Chinese officials ordered the lockdown of a city of 11 million people as coronavirus cases spike there, according to reports.

Teams of experts from the National Health Commission and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention have been sent to Shijiazhuang to guide and assist local disease control efforts.

The first round of citywide nucleic acid testing in Shijiazhuang was completed on Saturday.

"Apart from wedding banquets, some villagers also held religious activities at home every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, or at least twice a week, participated by dozens of people, mainly the elderly", a local official from the epicenter village of Shijiazhuang's outbreak was quoted as saying.

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