Chinese authorities have locked down a third area in the capital Beijing as they rush to prevent the spread of a new coronavirus outbreak which has infected more than 100 people.

The resurgence in China, which appeared to have largely contained the virus, highlights public health experts’ calls for vigilance as many nations move forward with easing virus restrictions to revive their economies.

Officials in New Zealand, which had not seen any new cases in three weeks, said they are investigating after two women who flew in from London to see a dying parent were allowed to leave quarantine and drive halfway across the country before they were tested and found to be positive.

The Philippines has also reimposed a strict lockdown on the city of Cebu after a rise in cases.

China reported 40 more coronavirus infections nationwide on Monday, 27 of them in Beijing, bringing the city’s total to 106 since Thursday.

At least one patient is in a critical condition and two are in serious condition. Four cases were also reported in neighbouring Hebei province, with three linked to the Beijing outbreak.

Most of the cases have been linked to the Xinfadi wholesale food market, and people lined up around the city for a mass testing campaign targeting anyone who had visited the market in the past two weeks or come into contact with them.

About 9,000 workers at the market had been tested previously.

Virus Outbreak China
Commuters in Beijing (AP)

The initial spread happened among market workers, according to Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

He told state broadcaster CCTV that authorities detected the outbreak early enough to be confident they can contain it.

“For those who were infected, they will start showing symptoms either tomorrow or the day after tomorrow,” he said.

“So, if there’s no sharp increase of newly reported cases tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, the outbreak this time will basically stay at the current scale.”

Authorities locked down seven residential compounds in Beijing’s Xicheng district, where the first case was confirmed on Thursday. They also barred residents of areas considered high-risk from leaving Beijing and banned taxis and car-hailing services from taking people out of the city.

Virus testing in Greece
Medical staff conduct a test for the new coronavirus on the passengers who arrived from Doha, Qatar to the Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport in Athens (AP)

The number of passengers on buses, trains and subways will also be limited and all are required to wear masks.

Fresh meat and seafood in the city and elsewhere in China is also being inspected, though experts have expressed doubt the virus could be spread via food supplies.

Nonetheless, Chinese media reports said that salmon had been pulled from shelves in 14 cities including Beijing after the virus was found in a sample taken from a salmon chopping board at Xinfadi market.

The market has been closed for disinfection, as has a second market where three cases were confirmed. Residential communities around both markets have been placed under lockdown, affecting 90,000 people in a city of 20 million.

China had relaxed many of its coronavirus controls after the ruling Communist Party declared victory over the virus in March. The infection was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

The two women in New Zealand had travelled from Auckland to Wellington by car. Director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield said that as part of their travel plan, the women had no contact with any people or any public facilities on their road trip.

The women remain in isolation in Wellington, and tests are being conducted on passengers and staff on their flights, others at the Auckland hotel they initially stayed at in quarantine as well as a family member they met in Wellington.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

South Korea has also been battling to prevent a resurgence of the virus, reporting 34 new cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday.

Half were found in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where health officials have been scrambling to stem transmissions linked to leisure and religious activities and low-income workers who could not afford to stay at home.

Hundreds of recent cases have been linked to nightspots, church gatherings, a huge e-commerce warehouse and door-to-door salespeople amid an erosion of citizen vigilance.

Despite concerns, the Seoul government has so far resisted calls to reimpose stronger social distancing guidelines after they were eased in April, fearing further damage to the fragile economy.

Palma beach
Holidaymakers in Palma, Mallorca (AP)

Philippine officials, meanwhile, have reimposed a strict lockdown on the central city of Cebu and retained quarantine restrictions in Manila for another two weeks as infections continue to spike.

President Rodrigo Duterte said: “The battle with Covid isn’t over.”

The epidemic continues to grow sharply in India, which recorded 10,667 new cases, taking the tally to 343,091.

Health services in the worst-hit cities of Mumbai, New Delhi and Chennai have been swamped by the rising infections. Nearly 10,000 people have died.

In the United States, vice president Mike Pence encouraged governors to highlight the “good news” around efforts to fight the virus despite several states reporting a rise in infections, which could intensify as people return to work and venture out during the summer.

Mr Pence said in a private call with governors that except for a few areas, the US is seeing strong drops in virus-related hospital admission and mortality rates.

In audio of the call obtained by The Associated Press, Mr Pence urged governors to make it clear to residents that “there’s a lot of really, really good news”.

White House officials have played down the severity of the virus surge in places like Arizona and Texas.

On Monday, the nation’s second-most-populated state set a one-day high in hospital admissions for the seventh time in eight days. Arizona’s hospitals were at about 82% capacity.

Meanwhile, Germany and France dropped border checks nearly two weeks after Italy opened its frontiers. Greece welcomed visitors, with passengers on flights from other European countries not having to undergo compulsory coronavirus tests.

The European Union’s 27 nations and other European states are not expected to start reopening to visitors from outside the continent until at least the beginning of July and possibly later.

Spain allowed thousands of Germans to fly to its Balearic Islands without a 14-day quarantine in a pilot programme designed to help authorities gauge what is needed against possible virus flare-ups.