Tighter virus rules in Heibei province

Chinese authorities have set up testing centres and increased restrictions in the Hebei province.
Chinese authorities have set up testing centres and increased restrictions in the Hebei province.

Chinese health authorities say scores more people have tested positive for coronavirus in Hebei province bordering on the capital Beijing.

The outbreak focused on the Hebei cities of Shijiazhuang and Xingtai is one of China's most serious in recent months and comes amid measures to curb the further spread during next month's Lunar New Year holiday. Authorities have called on citizens not to travel, ordered schools closed a week early and conducted testing on a massive scale.

The National Health Commission said on Monday that another 82 people had tested positive in Hebei and were showing symptoms. Around the country, another 36 people had tested positive without displaying symptoms, although it wasn't immediately clear how many of those were in Hebei.

The Hebei outbreak has raised concern because of its proximity to the nation's capital. Both Shijiazhuang and Xingtai have ordered millions tested, suspended public transportation and restricted residents to their communities or villages for one week. Parts of the province are under lockdown and travel between provinces has been largely cut off, with those entering Beijing to work having to show proof of employment and a clean bill of health.

Hebei has recorded 265 confirmed cases and at least 181 asymptomatic cases over the last eight days. China does not include those who test positive but do not show symptoms in its official case count.

China's has now recorded 87,536 total cases with 4,634 deaths. Hospitals were treating 673 people for COVID-19 while 506 people were in isolation and under observation after testing positive without showing symptoms.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

Japan's Health Ministry has found a coronavirus variant in people arriving from Brazil that's different from the ones in Britain and South Africa. The variant was found in four people tested at the airport, the ministry said Sunday.

Japan was working with other nations, the World Health Organisation and other medical experts to analyse the variant. The previously identified variants from Britain and South Africa are more contagious, but the behaviour of this variant and the illness it causes are not yet known. The Tokyo area has been under a state of emergency since Friday to try to stop the spread of the virus. Japan has had about 4,000 deaths related to COVID-19 so far, and more than 280,000 confirmed cases.

Australian Associated Press