Coronavirus: the new front in the battle of China against the pandemic on the border with Russia

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Suifenhe.

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Getty Images

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Suifenhe has become the new front for the battle of China against the covid-19.

The chinese city of Wuhan ended April 8, to a strict quarantine that was extended by 76 days to cope with the coronavirus.

The parks next to the hospitals that had fought against the covid-19 wore new flowers and trees planted to celebrate the occasion, as were rows of motorists ready to pay the tolls to leave the city, whose entries and exits had been closed since January.

“Virus-free”, could be read in flags waving in some buildings of this city, where they reported the first cases of the disease in the world.

“The high profile of the re-opening of Wuhan seeks to send a signal that China is back to normal and that activities can be resumed,” said Ho-Fung Hung, a professor of Political Economy at the Johns Hopkins University, the british daily The Guardian.

However, apparently still is soon to sing victory in the country.

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The asian giant now faces a new challenge in the pandemic by the recent spike of new cases.

After having experienced more than 15,000 new infections in the top of the curve, the February 12, China had managed to reduce the number of new cases to little more than a dozen at its lowest point on march 13.

However, recently the number of new infections began to increase, leading to record this past Sunday 108 cases: 98 of them chinese citizens who had just returned to the country from abroad.

More than half of them arrived from the Russian city of Vladivostok and entered the province of Heilongjiang, in the north-east, through the border crossing of the city of Suifenhe, which has become the new focus alert China’s response to the pandemic.

Domestic and imported

Located more than 1,500 kilometers away from Beijing, and less than four kilometres from the border, Suifenhe has approximately 100,000 inhabitants and is connected with Russia by both road and train.

The past week began to raise the alarm there, by the increase of imported cases.

On Wednesday of last week, China reported 59 cases from the exterior, of which 25 they had entered the country for this town located in the northeast of the country.

All were chinese nationals who had flown from Moscow to Vladivostok, from where they moved to Suifenhe, a little more than 200 miles away.

This has led to China to close the border crossing with Russia and would put the city in quarantine that same day, with measures similar to those implemented in Wuhan.

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AFP / Getty

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Suifenhe has about 100,000 inhabitants and has connection with Russia by road and by train.

In addition to Suifenhe, has been recently reported income of 66 people infected with hiv among a group of chinese who returned from Russia through the city of Manzhouli, another important border point located in the autonomous region of inner Mongolia.

Last Friday it was also reported the arrival in Shanghai of 60 people infected on a flight from Russia.

This Sunday, Russia confirmed 2.186 newly infected, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in that country to 15.770. However, numerous specialists believe that the figure could be much higher.

When you have eradicated to a large extent the local broadcasts of the disease, always according to official data, China has been reducing slowly the restrictions on the movement as you try to re-launch its economy, but it is feared that an increase of imported cases may trigger a second wave of covid-19.

A quarantine longer

The emergence of these new cases has led to both Suifenhe as Harbin, the capital of the province of Heilongjiang, have been implemented for those coming from the outside a quarantine of 28 days, in addition, testing of nucleic acid and antibody.

Given that the border is closed to foreigners, but not nationals, the consulate of China in Vladivostok has given a “major recommendation” to their citizens to avoid taking the route Moscow-Vladivostok-Suifenhe.

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“Of course I’m scared,” he told the BBC a woman who runs a bakery.

“Not now, we leave the house. A lot of people already left the city. But we cannot, because we have to take care of our shop”.

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Sovfoto

Image caption

This image from 2005 shows trainloads of wooden Russian crossing at the train station in Suifenhe.

Normally, Suifenhe would be living in their high season, with 1,000 customers a day, according to one of the workers of a local restaurant.

In its place, the authorities advised them to close, without having “no idea” of when they will be able to operate again.

However, the employee told the BBC that the measures would be “safe” and was confident that the government will take care of the population.

“First line of defense”

The increase in the number of people infected with hiv is exercising a strong pressure on the health care system in Suifenhe, for what its leaders called the Saturday donations of money, surgical masks, face masks N95, and protection equipment.

The central government sent to the city to a group of medical specialists in infectious diseases, respiratory diseases, intensive care and public health, who shall -among other things – to expand the tests to detect the covid-19.

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The authorities of the Heilongjiang province also sent more than 220 professionals in order to strengthen the availability of medical staff.

As part of the efforts was also built in an office building of 13 floors in a hospital improvised with capacity to serve 600 patients.

Wang Bin, a member of the National board of Health, highlighted on Monday the importance of what happens in the health centres of the towns border as Suifenhe.

“Our highest priority is to improve the areas of prevention and control capacity and to help them to havethe role of the first line of defense efficiently”, he noted.

So soon, everything seems to indicate that in regard to the covid-19 the return to “normality” in China -and the rest of the world – will require a little more time.

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