Chinese city of 10 million shuts down after first COVID-19 cases since February

Chinese city of 10 million shuts down after first COVID-19 cases since February
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Government leaders in a northern Chinese city of 10 million people have imposed lockdowns on gyms, movie theaters and other public venues after it reported its first COVID-19 cases since February. 

China’s National Health Commission reported Wednesday that three of 16 new local cases reported the previous day were recorded in Harbin, the capital of China's northernmost province of Heilongjiang, according to Reuters

The news agency noted that, prior to Tuesday, the last locally transmitted cases in Harbin were recorded on Feb. 4. 

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After city leaders were notified of a single COVID-19 infection in the city Tuesday, they issued an announcement stating that Harbin residents should not leave the city “unless necessary,” with churches and other religious venues ordered to close, as well as other indoor public venues. 

Tourist locations were also told to limit their capacity to 50 percent, according to Reuters. 

Those who do travel outside of the city are being required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test conducted within 48 hours from their departure. 

Harbin also said that in-person classes for kindergarteners, primary and high schools would be closed for at least a week. 

Chinese state television reported that one of the new COVID-19 cases in the northern city was reported after an individual tested positive at a local hospital, with the other two cases identified as close contacts, according to Reuters. 

The two close contact individuals had returned to China from the Philippines in late August and had reportedly been quarantined upon their arrival. 

It was not clear as of Wednesday whether the Harbin cases were linked to an outbreak in China’s eastern province of Fujian, which prompted officials last week to impose restrictions on residents. 

The New York Times noted Wednesday that with Harbin entering a period of cooler weather, authorities have expressed concern that COVID-19 cases could ramp up again as more people gather indoors. 

As of Wednesday, China has recorded a total of more than 108,000 COVID-19 infections, along with 4,849 fatalities, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.