A reported new coronavirus outbreak in China's Henan province is said to have raised fears that there could be devastating second wave of the deadly virus.
A new cluster of cases has allegedly broken out among medical staff at Jia County's People's Hospital in the region.
One staff member is said to have only just come back from 14 days in quarantine after they returned from Wuhan in neighbouring Hubei province, where the virus first emerged at the end of last year.
News of the alleged new outbreak, which was reported by the Daily Express, came as China reported 16 new confirmed coronavirus cases on April 18, the lowest since March 17 and down from 27 a day earlier.
It means the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the mainland reached 82,735 as of April 18, while the total death toll from the virus stood at 4,632.
A reported new coronavirus outbreak in China's Henan province is said to have raised fears that there could be a devastating second wave of the deadly virus. Pictured: Security guards lock the gate of the Forbidden City in Beijing on Sunday. AP
The claimed new COVID-19 outbreak has prompted authorities to impose travel restrictions.
Anyone coming in or out of residential compounds also needs to wear a facemask and have their temperature taken, according to an official document leaked to Radio Free Asia.
The Express also reported that businesses in Jia County are also closed except for supermarkets and farmers' markets.
The paper quoted residents who opened up on Weibo, the country's approved social media service, about what life is like.
One resident said: 'Everything's locked down. It just started.
'All households are locked down. Nobody can go into town, or if you do, you won't be able to leave again.'
Another resident said: 'Many people believe that the epidemic has been brought under control due to government propaganda, which is false.
The news comes as authorities remain on guard against a major resurgence of he virus, which could be socially and economically destabilising.
Notably, the northeastern province of Heilongjiang has seen a surge in infected travellers arriving from Russia in recent weeks, and is now battling to contain a flare-up in local cases.
The data from China's National Health Commission showed nine of the new cases reported on Saturday were imported infections, the lowest since March 13 and down from 17 a day earlier.
The remaining seven confirmed cases were locally transmitted, down from 10 the previous day.
Heilongjiang, in north-east China, has reported 39 new local cases in the past 10 days, or more than 50 per cent of all the new 73 local cases reported in the mainland during the same period.
Most of the cases were related to one imported case in the provincial capital Harbin.
On Friday, a total of 18 officials in Harbin, including a vice mayor, were punished.
A new cluster of cases has allegedly broken out among medical staff at Jia County's People's Hospital in the region. Pictured: medical staff at a hospital in Wuhan disinfect surfaces. Xinhua/Rex
To contain the outbreak quickly, the Heilongjiang government is cautioning against family gatherings, cross infections at hospitals, and slow reporting in epidemic investigations, according to a statement on the provincial government website.
'The biggest political task at present is to stop the rebound and spread of the epidemic,' Wang Yongkang, vice governor of Heilongjiang, was quoted as saying.
Elsewhere in mainland China, all areas in central Hubei province including Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak in China, are now considered low-risk.
However, a Beijing central district is seen as high-risk, according to a social media post by the State Council, or Cabinet.
On April 15, the Chinese capital reported three local cases, all of which were linked to an imported infection.
Areas that are considered of medium-risk in China include two districts in Harbin, the city of Suifenhe in Heilongjiang, two districts in the southern city of Guangzhou as well as Jiaozhou city in eastern Shandong province.
In mainland China, newly discovered asymptomatic cases stood at 44, down from 54 a day earlier. Three of the new cases were imported, according to the health commission.
China does not include asymptomatic cases, or patients who test positive but show no clinical symptoms such as a cough or fever, in its tally of confirmed cases.
The new figures came as a laboratory in Wuhan rejected as 'impossible' US theories that it is the cradle of the pandemic, as President Donald Trump warned Beijing of consequences if it was 'knowingly responsible'.
'Was it a mistake that got out of control or was it done deliberately?'
News of the alleged new outbreak, which was reported by the Daily Express, came as China reported 16 new confirmed coronavirus cases on April 18, the lowest since March 17 and down from 27 a day earlier
Trump said at a White House briefing Saturday, questioning the origins of the disease, which first emerged in the city of Wuhan in December.
'If they were knowingly responsible, yeah, then there should be consequences,' he said when asked if China should face repercussions for the pandemic.
The highly contagious disease was likely first transmitted to humans at a market where exotic animals were slaughtered, according to Chinese scientists.
But conspiracy theories that the virus came from a maximum-security virology lab have been brought into the mainstream in recent days by US government officials.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said an investigation was underway into how the virus 'got out into the world'.
'There's no way this virus came from us,' Yuan Zhiming, the head of the P4 laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is equipped to handle dangerous viruses, said in an interview with state media.
'I know it's impossible,' he added.
(Source: Daily Mail)