Beijing, January 9: Two cities located close to capital Beijing were sealed off by the Chinese authorities to prevent transmission of COVID-19 to other towns and provinces. Millions of residents based in Shijiazhuang and Xingtai were barred from commuting to other cities unless their travel is "absolutely necessary". White House COVID-19 Task Force Warns of Possible 'USA Variant'.

The decision was taken after both places recorded fresh cases of coronavirus. Both the cities are based in the northern Hebei province, where the maximum number of new infections have been reported. The province has so far recorded 127 new active cases, along with 183 asymptomatic infections.

Maximum of these cases were reported in Shijiazhuang, whereas, Xingtai accounts for nine of the new infections recorded. The total population of Hebei province is around 11 million, with nearly 7 million based in the city of Xingtai.

The crippling restrictions comes almost a year after most provinces of China, particularly the central Hubei region, was placed under a hard lockdown due to the outbreak of novel coronavirus.

The recent infections, being reported after China nearly grounded its COVID-19 positivity rate, are being linked to the new UK strain of coronavirus.

"The outbreak was imported from abroad, but the exact origins are currently under in-depth investigation by state, provincial and municipal experts," said Li Qi, head of the Hebei Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, at a press briefing Friday.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Jan 09, 2021 03:42 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website