Land ports with Russia closed to passengers

By Bai Yunyi and Wang Qi Source:Global Times Published: 2020/4/8 20:28:40

Rumors amid increasing imported cases will not hurt bilateral ties: expert

An Estonian border guard measures the temperature of a traveller at the border crossing with Russia in Narva, Estonia, March 9, 2020. Estonian authorities take measures like temperature checking and leaflets distributing to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. Photo: Xinhua

Fifty-nine imported cases of novel coronavirus infection were confirmed on Tuesday across China with 52 coming from Russia, where the epidemic has reached a key stage. The development triggered strong concern among Chinese people due to the surge in imported COVID-19 cases from Russia. 

Rumors intended to disrupt bilateral relations have emerged amid the tough situation. But analysts sought to ease public concerns by reiterating the two neighbors' historic relationship and firm cooperation against the pandemic.

North China's Shanxi Province reported 25 new imported infections on Tuesday, all of  whom arrived by air from Russia. Shanghai also reported two imported cases from Russia on the same day. 

Besides, Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province confirmed 25 new imported cases on Tuesday, all from Russia via the Suifenhe land port, according to local health authorities. 

The Chinese Embassy in Russia announced Wednesday that they had learned that the personnel passage at all the land borders between China and Russia had been temporarily closed.

According to the China Central Television, 2,443 people entered China from Russia via the Suifenhe port from March 21 to April 7, of whom 84 were confirmed infections and 127 were silent virus carriers. 

Most of the 84 cases are Chinese businessmen in Russia and who returned via a similar route: fly from Moscow to Vladivostok and then take a bus to the Suifenhe port.

According to Chinese citizens living in Russia reached by the Global Times, most Chinese in Russia live and work in Moscow, Vladivostok or Irkutsk. The people said that the recent flood of returnees to China was due to the worsening pandemic in Russia, which has seriously affected the work of Chinese people there and nearly eliminated their incomes. 

Some also decided to return as they think China is safer at the current stage in terms of epidemic control, according to Yin Bin, head of the Center of the Russia-Chinese Humanitarian Cooperation and Development in Moscow.  

The number of coronavirus infections in Russia hit 8,672 on Wednesday morning with nearly 6,000 in Moscow. Tuesday witnessed a daily increase of more than 1,000. 

Russian experts expect an epidemic peak in the country in the next 10-14 days.  The epidemic situation in Russia has reached a key point, Zhang Hanhui, Chinese ambassador to Russia, said in an interview with China Central Television (CCTV) on Tuesday. 

Zhang said that testing in Russia is not yet complete, so many infections may not have been detected, and not enough people wear masks. Also, some local people do not totally comply with home quarantine rules.

"But I'm confident in the Russian government as it paid close attention and launched effective measures from the beginning, and most Russians are willing to cooperate," he noted. 

According to Zhang, about 160,000 Chinese are in Russia, including 10,000 company employees, 50,000-60,000 entrepreneurs and 27,000 students. They are basically in stable condition.

It is impossible to take all 160,000 people back to China. The ideal way is for them to protect themselves at home rather than undertake the long journey that poses a high risk of cross infection, said the ambassador. 

Chen Gang, a Vladivostok-based Chinese national who works at a travel agency, told the Global Times on Wednesday that most Chinese in Russia choose to self-isolate at their homes in Russia. In terms of Vladivostok, city regulators have ordered all residents to stay home. Those without an official pass are not allowed to go out, or they will face a fine of up to 1 million roubles ($13,000).

Facing the pressure of imported cases from Russia, rumors emerged on Chinese social media saying that the Russian authorities would expel Chinese citizens, which agitated many netizens. 

The Chinese Embassy in Russia slammed the rumors on Wednesday on its website. 

"Russian authorities will protect Chinese nationals legitimately living there. As far as I know, there are no Chinese so far who have been detained or received compulsory measures over visa issues," Zhang told CCTV.   

"Whoever fabricated the rumors has ulterior motives to drive a wedge between China and Russia amid the pandemic," Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

Li said no country would expel legitimate Chinese nationals, let alone Russia, which has profound relations with China. The friendly and cooperative relationship between the two nations is based on common interests and friendship, which has led to mutual cooperation during the battle against the coronavirus. 

"It is futile to seek to disrupt the friendship between Chinese and Russian people, as long as the two governments communicate and cooperate in a timely manner. Friendly development meets the common requirements of the two sides," Li said.


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