Residents of Guan Town, just south of Beijing, were ordered to stay in their homes for seven days starting Tuesday.

The lockdowns have been extended and a major political conference postponed in a neighboring province of Beijing, which is the scene of the recent most serious COVID-19 outbreak in China.

Residents of Guan Town, just south of Beijing, were ordered to stay in their homes for seven days starting Tuesday. Similar measures were ordered across the country, particularly in the central city of Wuhan, where 11 million people were locked out for 76 days last winter as the pandemic was just beginning.

Hebei has also delayed meetings of the Provincial People’s Congress and its advisory body, which are usually held in February. It was not clear when the meetings would take place.

China postponed the holding of the National People’s Congress and its advisory body in Beijing from March to May last year, shortening sessions and limiting access to the media, a sign of the seriousness with which the ruling Communist Party was treating the epidemic.

The Hebei Provincial Health Commission on Tuesday reported 40 new confirmed cases, all but one in the provincial capital of Shijiazhuang, just south of Beijing, where transport links were cut and residents were told to stay at home. Local authorities say several dozen of the more than 300 confirmed cases reported this year in the city appear to be linked to marriages.

A new case has been reported in Beijing, where more than a dozen communities and villages have been locked out, and one in northeast Heilongjiang Province, bringing the total reported by China to 87,591 with 4,634 deaths.

The outbreak comes amid measures to curb the spread of the virus during the Lunar New Year holiday next month. Authorities called on citizens not to travel, ordered schools to close a week in advance, and carried out large-scale testing.

Scientists from the World Health Organization are due to arrive in China on Thursday to investigate the origins of the coronavirus, which was first detected in Wuhan at the end of 2019.

During a press briefing in Geneva, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said scientists, from several countries, would focus on how COVID-19 was first transmitted to people.

“Studies will start in Wuhan to identify the potential source of infection of the first cases,” Tedros said.

A Associated press An investigation recently revealed that China strictly controls all research into the origins of the coronavirus, and the WHO team will see its agenda and any visit to China approved by the Chinese government.

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