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April 14, 2020

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Medical experts sent to border city

CHINA’S northeastern border with Russia has become the new front line in the fight against a resurgence of the coronavirus epidemic as new daily cases rose to the highest in nearly six weeks — with more than 90 percent involving people coming from abroad.

Having largely stamped out domestic transmission of the disease, China has been slowly easing curbs on movement as it tries to get its economy back on track, but there are fears that a rise in imported cases could spark a second wave of COVID-19.

A total of 108 new coronavirus cases were reported in China’s mainland on Sunday, up from 99 a day earlier, marking the highest daily tally since March 5. Imported cases accounted for a record 98. Half of them involved Chinese nationals returning from Russia’s Vladivostok city. They were re-entering China through border crossings in Heilongjiang Province.

“Our little town here, we thought it was the safest place,” said a resident of the border city of Suifenhe, who only gave his surname as Zhu.

Streets in Suifenhe were virtually empty on Sunday evening due to restrictions on movement and gatherings announced last week, when authorities took preventative measures similar to those imposed in Wuhan.

China has cut the number of people crossing its borders by 90 percent and has tried to stop all non-essential journeys, said Liu Haitao, an immigration official. “Our border is long, and apart from the border crossings and passages, there are a large number of mountain passes, paths, ferry crossings and small roads, and the situation is very complicated.”

Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang, has postponed the opening of junior high schools. Schools were originally scheduled to open on Friday.

China’s National Health Commission has dispatched an expert team to Suifenhe to support its prevention and control of imported COVID-19 cases, a health official said yesterday.

The personnel include medical experts on infection control, intensive care and respiratory diseases, as well as public health professionals on emergency health response, infectious disease control and laboratory testing, said Mi Feng, a spokesperson for the NHC.

Experts are cooperating with local organs to treat patients and prevent the epidemic from spreading, Mi said.

The capabilities of China’s land border cities and counties, including Suifenhe, to prevent and control major epidemics are insufficient, said Wang Bin, an official with the NHC.

It is an urgent task to improve these regions’ medical care, public health and border quarantine, Wang said.

The experts dispatched to the border cities will help improve their plans and measures to prevent imported cases, as well as strengthen their capabilities of detection, treatment and quarantine, said Wang. More medical equipment, test kits, protective materials and laboratory equipment will be allocated to border cities, she added.

In Shanghai, authorities found that 60 people who arrived on an Aeroflot flight SU208 from Moscow on April 10 have the coronavirus, Zheng Jin, a spokeswoman for the Shanghai Health Commission, said yesterday.


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