Residents in a region of central China have been ordered back into their homes and are only being allowed to leave with a special permit, over fears of a second wave of COVID-19 in the region.

The South China Morning Post has reported that about 600,000 people have been affected by the sudden lockdown in Jia county in the Henan province, adjacent to the Hubei province where the virus originated in December.

The Hong Kong-based newspaper said all businesses – except supermarkets, hospitals, food markets, petrol stations, pharmacies and hotels – had been closed.

And local authorities had put in place curfew-like measures.

Only people with special permits are being allowed to go to work, and these residents must have their temperatures taken before they leave the house and wear face masks once outside.

An official of the county’s transport office confirmed the county had been put in virtual isolation, the newspaper reported.

The paper quoted one resident, 23-year-old Wang Xiao, who said that only one member of each household was allowed out to buy groceries every two days.

“The hospital is only about two kilometres from my home.

“I had no idea that there were confirmed cases.

It is believed a doctor who worked at the county’s hospital tested positive for coronavirus on Saturday, and passed the virus on to two colleagues who also subsequently tested positive.

“Previously no one knew what happened as there were rumours flying around of people have been infected and no one dared to go out,” another resident, businessman Wang Jun, said.

“Now, we know that the doctors were sick but our daily life has been affected.”

China’s official death toll from the virus stands at 3,193, from more than 82,000 who contracted the virus.