China is closing a city of 3.5 million people near the border with Vietnam on Monday after more than 70 cases of coronavirus were discovered there in the past three days.
China, the only major global economy still adhering to a strict zero-COVID policy, is on high alert for any outbreaks as it hosts the Beijing Winter Olympics.
Local officials in the town of Baise in the southern region of Guangxi announced on Sunday that no one would be allowed to leave the city, while residents of some districts would be confined to their homes.
“Traffic checks will be implemented throughout the city,” Vice Mayor Gu Junyan told a briefing.
“Basically, vehicles and people can’t get in or out of the city…with strict staff controls and no unnecessary movement of people.”
Residents of some neighborhoods in smaller rural towns and counties under Baise’s jurisdiction have been placed under strict house arrest, while others are unable to leave their district, Gu added.
Located about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the Vietnamese border, Baise discovered his first local case on Friday — a traveler who had returned home for the week-long New Year’s holiday, officials said.
Since the pandemic, China has built a heavily guarded wire mesh fence along its southern border to keep out illegal migrants from Vietnam and Myanmar — as well as possible COVID-19 infections.
Mass tests are already underway for residents, authorities said.
Since the coronavirus pandemic first emerged in Wuhan in Hubei province two years ago, China has used strict local lockdowns, massive testing and contact-tracing apps to try to eliminate outbreaks as soon as cases are detected, leading to country spared the mass deaths that the rest witnessed. of the world.
Millions were locked in their homes in multiple Chinese cities in the run-up to the Olympics after cases involving both the Delta and Omicron coronavirus variants flared up. The outbreaks were largely eradicated.
In December, 13 million residents of the northern megacity of Xi’an were placed under strict house arrest for more than a month after an outbreak of more than 2,000 cases.
Residents complained of grocery shortages and overly strict enforcement of lockdown measures by local officials, denying patients critical medical treatment, leading to death in some cases.
China reported 79 new cases nationwide on Monday, 37 of them in Guangxi.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s zero-COVID policy is on track after a record number of new infections were announced over the weekend, prompting officials to ramp up testing capacity and warn that tightening of virus containment measures may be necessary.
China’s borders with the rest of the world, including Hong Kong, are largely closed.