China’s northeastern province of Heilongjiang, which borders Russia, has declared a state of emergency after reporting 16 new locally transmitted coronavirus cases . It is the latest virus hotspot in the north of the country, which has seen a spike in cases in recent weeks. There were 115 new infections reported nationwide as of Tuesday, eight of them imported and the rest local transmissions. Ninety of those local cases were in Hebei province, neighbouring Beijing, and there was one in Shanxi, the National Health Commission said on Wednesday. Chinese health authorities have been trying to contain a steady rise in cases over winter with mass testing and lockdowns, as infections in Hebei and Heilongjiang with unknown origins spread quickly to other provinces. There are now 784 confirmed cases in mainland China, according to official figures. In addition, 556 asymptomatic carriers – which are not included in China’s tally – are being kept under medical observation in provinces including Jilin, Shandong and Zhejiang. Health authorities said most of those cases had been traced back to the Hebei and Heilongjiang clusters. The latest lockdown came on Monday, with restrictions imposed on residents of Heilongjiang hotspot Wangkui county, in the city of Suihua, after 20 asymptomatic cases were recorded there. It followed lockdowns last week in the Hebei cities of Shijiazhuang and Xingtai, where most of the province’s cases have been reported. Langfang, a Hebei city bordering Beijing, has also been blocked off after a resident who works in Beijing contracted the virus following a trip to Shijiazhuang. My trip through China’s extreme Covid-19 quarantine measures from ‘contaminated’ Europe But the outbreak has continued to spread to other cities in Heilongjiang and nearby Jilin province, with more than 20 people testing positive this week in a cluster involving Wangkui residents who had left the county and their close contacts. The situation prompted Heilongjiang party secretary Zhang Qingwei to declare a state of emergency in the province on Tuesday after rushing back from a meeting in Beijing. “We must overcome numbness and weariness to uncover loopholes and rectify them as soon as possible,” Zhang told provincial officials, according to state news agency Xinhua. “The task of pandemic prevention and control is very tough. We must treat this as the top priority.” Chinese local governments ban rural weddings and funerals to halt spread of Covid-19 He emphasised the need for disease control and prevention in rural areas and urged all mass gatherings to be cancelled and for travel to be avoided where possible in the run-up to the Lunar New Year on February 12. More than 70 per cent of the cases in Hebei are people living in villages and many have attended weddings, funerals and other events in recent weeks, according to health authorities. Across China, local governments have called on people to stay home this Lunar New Year, when millions of people usually travel for family reunions. Shanghai authorities went further, issuing a notice on Wednesday urging residents of medium- and high-risk zones not to travel to the city until the end of March. Shijiazhuang is the only high-risk zone in China at present and there are 73 areas considered medium risk: eight in Beijing; 29 across Hebei province; nine in Heilongjiang; and 27 in Liaoning.