Shanghai authorities began evacuating a residential neighbourhood near the historic Bund riverfront after Chinese officials discovered at least three new coronavirus cases on Thursday.

Officials did not say how many people were being moved out of the area in central Shanghai as they ramped up testing to stamp out the small outbreak, the latest example of China's tough response to small clusters.

Two of the people found with the virus work at hospitals and are neighbours, local health officials told a press conference. The third case was detected in one of their contacts.

An AFP reporter at the scene said that buses were on standby and being disinfected before whisking away people living in the neighbourhood to a hotel. Some roads were sealed off.

The area evacuated is near Shanghai's historic Bund waterfront
The area evacuated is near Shanghai's historic Bund waterfront AFP / Hector RETAMAL

The coronavirus emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, unleashing a global pandemic which has killed more than two million people and shattered economies.

But with aggressive lockdowns, mass testing and travel restrictions, the country has broadly managed to bring the virus under control within its borders.

There has recently been a small uptick however in locally transmitted infections. About 1.6 million residents were banned from leaving Beijing on Wednesday after two cases linked to a new virus variant in Britain were found in the Chinese capital.

The virus has officially killed fewer than 5,000 people in China.