A medical worker collects a swab sample from a girl at a community in Qiaoxi District of Shijiazhuang (Image: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock)
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A Chinese city with a bigger population than London has been completely shut down – and entered 'wartime mode' – after coronavirus cases more than doubled.
The new outbreak in Shijiazhuang has seen over 100 Covid cases – the highest in China for five months – with schools and residential compounds locked down and public gatherings banned.
Travel in and out of the city, the capital of the northern Hebei Province, which is 180 miles from Beijing, has been halted and Shijiazhuang's postal service has even been suspended for three days.
5,000 mass testing hubs have been set up as the local government attempts to contain the new cluster of cases, which amounts to 120, as of Thursday.
Xiaoguozhuang Village has been marked as a "high risk" area.
Medical workers wearing face masks line up to board a bus heading to a temporary testing center in Shijiazhuang
(Image: VCG via Getty Images)
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Another 22 positive infections have also been recorded across China, including in Xingtai, some 80 miles south of Shijiazhuang, which saw three new cases on Monday.
Transport links have been severely reduced and flights cancelled just weeks before Chinese New Year on February 12, where people traditionally travel across the country in large numbers.
A police officer stands guard at an entrance to the expressway in Shijiazhuang
Feng Zijian, deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, told state TV that outbreak was likely due to mutated strain "imported from Europe".
Chinese CDC and National Health Commission experts have been shipped out to Shijiazhuang and Xingtai.
And investigative teams have been stationed across the province to monitor contacts of those who have already tested positive.
Three officials in Shijiazhuang's Gaocheng district have been punished for "negligence", reports state-run China Daily.
The original virus epicentre was in the Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of 2019.
More than 85.66million people have since been reported to be infected globally and 1,854,372 have died, according to a Reuters tally.