Jan. 20 (UPI) -- Chinese authorities confirmed two cases of a new British COVID-19 variant in Beijing, ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday when tens of millions of Chinese are expected to travel across the country.
Pang Xinghuo, deputy director of the Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control, said Wednesday authorities have found two new cases with zero genetic correlation to previously reported cases, China's Beijing News reported Wednesday.
The COVID-19 variant strain, B.1.1.7, was detected among two cases in the Chinese capital, Pang said, referring to the coronavirus variant with mutations that help the virus spread faster during human-to-human transmission.
The epicenter of the most recent Beijing outbreak is the Daxing District. Six new cases of COVID-19 detected Tuesday were reported in the district on Wednesday. A total of nine new cases have been reported in Daxing since Sunday, Pang said.
Daxing has been placed on lockdown. According to Beijing municipal spokesman Xu Hejian, Daxing has been closed off from the rest of the country. Residents of some apartment complexes are banned from leaving their buildings, and retailers and restaurants have shuttered under city orders. People who visited the Daxing area have also been ordered to quarantine at home for at least 14 days, according to Xu.
Beijing is the seat of the Chinese government and the residence of top Chinese officials and leader Xi Jinping. In 2020, Xi claimed China had fended off the coronavirus, but also delayed a team of World Health Organization officials from entering Wuhan. The investigators finally began their work in the central Chinese city last week.
Beijing's outbreak comes after a record number of COVID-19 cases were reported in adjacent Hebei Province, where China reported its first COVID-19 death since May.
Other Chinese cities have reported COVID-19 variant cases. The Shanghai Center for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed a woman who arrived in China on a flight from Britain on Dec. 14 was infected with the variant. On Jan. 2, Guangdong Province said a mutation similar to the British variant was found in the area, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.