Rare plea for help as China zero-tolerance COVID hits border town By Reuters – News Couple

Rare plea for help as China zero-tolerance COVID hits border town By Reuters

© Reuters. Staff in protective suits check proof of negative test results for travelers at the entrance to Harbin West Railway Station after new local cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province, China September 22, 2

BEIJING (Reuters) – A former deputy mayor of a Chinese town on the border with Myanmar has lamented local lockdowns and disruptions caused by recurring coronavirus outbreaks and wrote a rare plea for a “strong” helping hand from Beijing.

Ruili, located in Yunnan province, has faced some of the country’s toughest restrictions under Beijing’s zero-tolerance policy, as a major international transit point for southwest China, after outbreaks of the disease several times since last year.

China’s border towns, which face higher risks of infection from abroad and many with relatively few resources, suffer more severe disruptions than wealthier cities.

Dai Rongli, Vice Mayor of Ruili in 2018, wrote on his WeChat account in a rare display of concern about China’s restrictions on COVID.

This remote corner of China has been plagued by reports of asymptomatic carriers in recent days. While it is not in complete lockdown, Ruili discourages its 200,000 residents from leaving the city. Those who insist, except for those planning essential travel, will have to self-quarantine for at least seven days before departure.

“The prolonged closure of the town has been an obstacle to the development of the town,” Day wrote. “It is necessary to resume production and trade.”

The Ruili government did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Northeast China

In the northeast, some border cities have begun to tighten COVID-19 measures as China battles the outbreak mainly in the north.

Official data showed, on Thursday, that China reported 23 locally transmitted asymptomatic cases on Wednesday, bringing the total to 270 cases since October 17, when the current outbreak began.

Although the number is small compared to infections elsewhere in the world, the spread to more than a dozen regional areas has forced officials to tighten restrictions, putting pressure on the service sector, including tourism companies and restaurants.

In northeastern Heilongjiang Province, which shares a border with Russia, the city of Heihe detected a locally confirmed case on Wednesday.

The city of 1.3 million has demanded the suspension of manufacturing activities and commercial operations in urban areas, except for essential areas, and the cutting off of transportation services within those areas as well as external roads.

‘Extreme caution’

Julian Evans-Pritchard, chief China economist at Capital Economics, said China’s high vaccination rate should in principle allow it to switch to a less disruptive strategy.

As of October 23, 76% of China’s 1.41 billion population had received full doses.

“But extreme caution prevails,” he said. “Any shift seems unlikely until at least after the Winter Olympics in February.”

Jiamusi, also on the border of Heilongjiang and Russia, has not reported cases in the latest outbreak, but has banned individuals arriving from abroad from entering the city’s tourist sites for seven days.

Two other cities in Heilongjiang, Jixi and Mudanjiang, pledged to enter a “pre-war” mode of intense vigilance and strict surveillance, although no local infections were reported in the past week.

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