Chinese city on Myanmar border orders home quarantine over new COVID-19 cases

The new patients were discovered following a routine nucleic acid test of the city's key population. It wasn't immediately clear how the outbreak started.

The Chinese city of Ruili near the border with Myanmar has imposed a lockdown after six coronavirus cases were reported on Wednesday — the first cluster of COVID-19 to be reported in the country in almost two months.

Health authorities in Yunnan Province, where Ruili is located, said five of the six new cases were Chinese citizens, the other being a Myanmar national, while three asymptomatic patients, who are infected with the coronavirus but show no symptoms, were Myanmar citizens. They are 22 to 42 years old.

The new patients were discovered following a routine nucleic acid test of the city’s key population, the Yunnan health commission said in a statement. It wasn’t immediately clear how the outbreak started.

Ruili is a major crossing point from Muse in neighboring Myanmar. Yunnan health authorities warned on Wednesday they would “severely crack down on illegal border crossings and organizers or harborers.”

Ruili, with a population of about 210,000 people, will test all its residents for the virus, and people living in the city’s urban area will go under home quarantine for a week, said an official notice.

This means that residents are not to leave their homes without “special reasons,” and only one member of each household can leave to buy daily necessities with permission.

All business premises except supermarkets, pharmacies and farm produce markets will be closed.

The city will only allow individuals with a negative nucleic acid COVID-19 test within 72 hours to leave Ruili and will advise all people and vehicles coming to the city to turn back.

A working group sent by the National Health Commission has arrived in Ruili to guide COVID-19 epidemic prevention and control.

According to the disease control and prevention center in Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture, which administers Ruili, local health authorities will launch large-scale vaccine inoculations to cover all residents aged over 18 in four border cities and counties including Ruili starting on Thursday.

The city is a key transit point for Yunnan Province, which has stepped up efforts to monitor its rugged 4,000km border with Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam for illegal immigration amid a wave of unauthorized crossings last year by those seeking a haven from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ruili rolled out similar measures last year after imported infections from Myanmar were detected in the city.

China’s borders remain closed to most foreigners, and infections in recent months have been from returning overseas nationals.

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