The original epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, Wuhan, China, has now recorded the first new cluster of local cases since its strict lockdown was lifted in early April.
The outbreak in Wuhan is one of two worrying clusters, with the other popping up hundreds of miles away in the northeastern city of Shulan, which was ordered back into a lockdown.
In Wuhan, local authorities reported Monday that six new cases of local transmission were recorded over the weekend within the residential neighborhood of Sanmin.
The South China Morning Post reported that the municipal Wuhan government fired a local official because of poor disease control in his neighborhood.
China’s Xinhua News Agency reported that the new cases were discovered when tests were conducted on more than 5,000 Sanmin residents. The Sanmin community had recorded 20 cases earlier in the outbreak.
The Wuhan Health Commission said that an 89-year-old man in the neighborhood displayed symptoms as early as March, but it wasn’t confirmed as a case until Saturday. His wife and four others in the neighborhood all tested positive for COVID-19 the next day although they were asymptomatic.
“Wuhan is still facing huge pressure to control the current epidemic,” the health commission said. “We need to pay close attention to control both imported cases as well as local cases, and resolutely contain the resurgence of COVID-19.”
A second larger cluster is emerging out of the city of Shulan, in China’s northeastern Jilin province near the Russian and North Korean borders. Its mayor announced in a press conference on Monday that Shulan is in a ”wartime” footing against COVID-19, placing the city of more than 700,000 residents under lockdown at least until the end of May.
Shulan has reported 14 cases over the past two days, all linked to a 45-year-old woman working at the local police’s laundry department who tested positive for the virus last Thursday. Authorities still do not know how she became infected.
As the rest of the country appears to be on the road to recovery and the Chinese government tries to direct its efforts to restarting the economy, the northeastern provinces bordering Russia and North Korea have emerged as a lingering and growing COVID-19 hotspot.