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China’s new coronavirus cases near 6-week high, mostly imported

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Country reports highest number of cases on Sunday as border with Russia becomes a front line in Covid-19 battle

CHINA: China's north-eastern border with Russia has become a 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 per cent 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 on Sunday, up from 99 a day earlier, marking the highest daily tally since March 5. Imported cases accounted for a record 98 infections. Half involved Chinese nationals returning from Russia's Far Eastern Federal District, home to the city of Vladivostok. They re-entered 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.

"Some Chinese citizens - they want to come back, but it is not very sensible, what are you doing coming here for?"

The border is closed except to Chinese nationals, and the land route through the city had become one of few options available for people trying to return home after Russia stopped flights to China except for those evacuating people.

Streets in Suifenhe were virtually empty on Sunday evening due to restrictions on movement and gatherings announced last week, when the authorities took preventive measures similar to those imposed in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the pandemic first emerged last year.


The total number of confirmed cases in China stood at 82,160 as of Sunday.

Though the number of daily infections across the country has dropped sharply from the peak, China has seen the daily toll creep higher after hitting a trough on March 12 because of the rise in imported cases.

Chinese cities near the Russian frontier are tightening border controls and imposing stricter quarantines in response.

Suifenhe and Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang, are now mandating 28 days of quarantine as well as nucleic acid and antibody tests for all arrivals from abroad.

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

China has cut the number of people crossing its borders by 90 per cent and has tried to stop all non-essential journeys, said Mr Liu Haitao, an immigration official, at a separate briefing.

"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," he said.

Residents in Suifenhe said a lot of people had left the city fearing contagion, but others put their trust in the authorities' containment measures. - REUTERS