Beijing has ordered people returning to the city from holidays to quarantine themselves for 14 days to try to contain the coronavirus spread, as the death toll in China from the outbreak passed 1,500.

On Saturday, the country’s National Health Commission said 2,641 new cases were confirmed in the previous 24 hours, taking the total number of confirmed infections across mainland China to 66,492. There were also 143 deaths in the 24 hours to midnight on Friday, taking total fatalities from the virus to 1,523.

The official Beijing Daily newspaper said people failing to obey government orders to quarantine themselves on return from the holidays would be punished. But it was not immediately clear how that would be enforced, or whether the restrictions would apply to non-residents or foreigners arriving from abroad.

Beijing has a population of more than 20 million people and the annual National People’s Congress, where thousands of Communist Party delegates pour into the city, is due to start on 5 March.