Coronavirus: travel restrictions imposed on Chinese border city after local infections reported

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Travel restrictions were imposed on residents in the Chinese border city of Ruili on Monday morning and a new round of mass testing was started after the city reported three new locally transmitted Covid-19 infections.

The city in southwestern Yunnan province has also closed the main bridge linking it with Myanmar.

Ruili mayor Shang Labian said the city “took immediate action after receiving case reports” on Monday.

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Measures included activating the second-highest level of public health emergency response, blocking thoroughfares and closing the online approval service for leaving the city, he said.

He added that around 900 medical professionals had been brought into the city to support efforts to trace contacts, do mass testing and treat patients. Shang did not rule out the possibility of more cases being confirmed following the testing.

Ruili also reported five imported coronavirus cases on Monday. Three of the patients who lived in Myanmar entered China via a land border crossing in June, while two flew in from Indonesia on Friday.

The province is trying to contain a new outbreak in which 76 patients are being treated, most of them imported infections.

From Monday morning Ruili’s roughly 200,000 residents were banned from leaving the Chinese city and required to undergo testing for the pathogen, with the goal of reaching “zero Covid-19”.

A vaccination programme administered more than 126,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines by April 5, according to state news agency Xinhua. The mass vaccination roll-out was prompted by an earlier resurgence in cases and has a target of vaccinating all eligible residents in four border counties and cities under Dehong Dai and Jingpo autonomous prefecture.

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The renewed restrictions underscore the challenges China faces to fully reopen its borders while other countries still grapple with the virus.

Myanmar, one of China’s 14 neighbours, is tackling a new wave of coronavirus infections. It reported 8,050 cases in the week of June 28, compared with 746 infections in the week of May 31, according to the World Health Organization.

Ruili’s top Communist Party official was dismissed in April over “serious dereliction of duty” after failing to prevent three Covid-19 outbreaks within six months.

Last September, authorities in the city cracked down on illegal entrants after two Myanmese in Ruili tested positive.

In March, Ruili closed the main bridge linking the country with Myanmar and started a one-week lockdown after six local Covid-19 infections were reported.

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China has brought local outbreaks under control by imposing restrictions, mass testing and contract tracing. It has also accelerated its vaccination campaign, with nearly 1.3 billion doses administered by Saturday.

Strict border controls have also been in place to prevent imported infections and inbound travellers have had to take antibody tests before arriving and adhere to quarantine measures.

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