China puts Vietnam border city of four million under strict COVID-19 lockdown

People are ordered to stay home and get food delivered, as schools and non-essential businesses are closed.
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China puts Vietnam border city of four million under strict COVID-19 lockdown Residents queueing to receive the Sinovac Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine in Rongan, in China's southern Guangxi region, June 3, 2021 .

Authorities in the southwestern Chinese region of Guangxi have imposed a total lockdown on Baise, a city of some four million close to the border with Vietnam, in a bid to curb the spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19.

"Transport restrictions will be imposed city-wide on Baise from Feb. 6," the city authorities said in a statement.

"Strict controls ... will ensure that no people or vehicles will be allowed in or out, nor to pass between districts, townships or counties, unless absolutely necessary."

City authorities reported 43 confirmed COVID-19 cases on Monday, including 37 in Debao county, two in Youjiang district, one in Tianyang district, one in Longlin county and two in Jingxi city, state media reported.

Schools and training institutions will remain closed and all public transportation will be suspended, with only supermarkets, farmers' markets, hospitals and pharmacies staying open to ensure supplies of daily necessities to residents, the city government said.

The catering industry has been asked to do all it can to provide food takeouts to residents ordered to stay in their homes.

People have been prevented from gathering, and all forms of transportation in and out of Baise have been shut down, including the city's airport, with road-blocks on highways, local roads and national expressways.

Local officials and quarantine enforcement teams have been ordered to enforce an order to the population to isolate at home, and to coordinate delivery services to local residents.

"[You must also] implement prevention and control measures such as stopping people from leaving the area they are in, and strictly prohibiting gatherings ... implementing a fine-grained grid management mechanism, down to the smallest grid unit," a copy of the order posted by official media reported.

'Nobody can leave or come here'

Officials are also expected to keep track of the close contacts of any cases and monitor returnees from high-risk areas, it said.

The authorities immediately ordered COVID-19 tests for more than four million people, reports said, with around 98 preliminary positive results after the first wave of testing.

A local lawyer surnamed Li confirmed the reports from Baise.

"It's true that the city is locked down," Li said. "It has been since midnight ... nobody can leave or come here."

"I heard this wave of infections was brought by a bunch of people who had been working in Shiyan township ... in Shenzhen, and brought [the virus] back with them when they traveled back to their hometowns for Lunar New Year," he said.

The outbreak had been traced to a single migrant worker surnamed Xu, who had passed the virus to a lover after an assignation in a hotel room, Li said.

According to the Guangxi Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the infected person drove by private car to the Vienna Hotel in Debao county at 4:00 a.m. on January 28 , went to eat dinner at a branch of the "Dog Meat King" chain of restaurants, before going to Debao county railway station to pick up his date.

He then spent time at the Vienna Hotel, before visiting local people in their homes, and going to a local hospital, spreading the virus as he did so, the official report found.

Vaccines  not effective

Current affairs commentator Xiang Wei said currently available vaccines appear to offer little protection against the omicron variant.

"Sinovac's inactivated vaccine doesn't work," Xiang said. "Some people are suffering from myocarditis and coronary heart disease after being vaccinated, causing blood clots."

China has further tightened health checks on arrivals to the country, requiring incoming passengers on Chinese airline flights to quarantine in a local hotel for seven days on arrival.

A recent inbound passenger who gave on the surname Wang said a slew of quarantine restrictions across different cities in East Asia have made the process of getting to China a lengthy one.

"If you're coming back [to China] from South Korea, before you get on the plane in South Korea, you will be quarantined in a local hotel in South Korea for seven days," Wang said.

"Then flying from Seoul to Qingdao, that's another seven days, and another 14 days if you fly to Shanghai after that," she said.

"The whole world is like this now."

On Jan. 27, authorities in the southern city of Guangzhou barred anyone who has recently spent time in Baise from entering the city.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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