A Chinese city on the border with Russia has gone into a Wuhan-style lockdown and is urgently building a field hospital as citizens flood back in sparking a surge in imported COVID-19 cases.
The city of Suifenhe is one of three border towns in north-eastern China’s Heilongjiang Province which are now barring entry to Chinese citizens fleeing home from the Russian Far East amid fears over a second wave of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
Suifenhe Port, which borders Pogranichny in Russia’s south-eastern Primorsky Krai, is now closed to all foot and vehicle traffic, as are the larger border cities of Heihe and Fuyuan.
As COVID-19 epicentre Wuhan lifted its 76-day travel restrictions yesterday (8th April), the county-level city of just 70,000 people went on full lockdown at 6am local time.
Strict measures similar to those implemented in Wuhan include closed management of all gated communities and a shutdown of all non-essential sectors.
Each household is allowed to send just one person to purchase necessities every three days, and the individual must register their name, wear a mask and subject themselves to temperature screenings, the local government announced.
The lockdown will continue until at least 13th April.
Suifenhe is also in the process of building a 600-bed field hospital, with the conversion of a 13-storey office block expected to be completed by 11th April.
According to the Heilongjiang Health Commission, 40 new COVID-19 cases were recorded yesterday as Chinese nationals made a final dash across the border.
It brings the number of imported coronavirus cases to 127, with six people said to be in critical condition, but the figure does not include 154 imported asymptomatic patients, Chinese state media said.
Following a reported agreement with Moscow, China has now shut its 2,670-mile border with Russia, which includes land crossings in the provinces of Heilongjiang and Jilin, as well as the northern autonomous region of Inner Mongolia.
It comes as the Inner Mongolian city of Manzhouli – the largest land border between the neighbours – closed at 8pm local time last night, reporting that it had stretched its quarantine and testing capacity “beyond limit” as tens of thousands of Chinese flooded back in.
As concerns over the pandemic in Russia grew, some Chinese nationals flew across the entire country from Moscow to Vladivostok before boarding buses in order to cross back into China via Suifenhe, reports said.
With borders now closed, Chinese ambassador to Russia Zhang Hanhui urged the roughly 160,000 Chinese nationals in Russia to remain in their homes in self-quarantine.
Mr Zhang said that repatriating such a large number of people in a short period of time was “unrealistic”.
The Chinese consulate in Vladivostok, which is about 85 miles from Suihenfe, has warned citizens not to attempt a crossing at this time.
The major Russian port city is fining local residents up to 1 million RUB (10,800 GBP) for flouting the current stay-at-home quarantine measures, the consulate said.
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