Hotels, hospitals in N.China’s Manzhouli packed amid growing imported COVID-19 cases from Russia

By Liu Caiyu and Chen Qingqing Source:Global Times Published: 2020/4/13 18:28:19

A construction worker carries building materials for a makeshift hospital in Suifenhe, Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, on Friday. The hospital is being built in this border county as imported COVID-19 cases from Russia continue to rise. Photo: Xinhua

 Hotels in China's largest land port of Manzhouli in North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region are packed with quarantined arrivals from overseas and hospitals are busying with treating COVID-19 patients, as the China-Russia border city sounds the alarm over an increasing number of imported cases from Russia.

The land port city has become another new battleground in China to fight the imported COVID-19 cases and come under growing pressure in handling imported coronavirus cases due to its limited medical resources, according to local hospitals and residents.  

All hotels of four-star rating and above have been taken over for use as designated collective quarantine sites, according to a local resident at Manzhouli who has been engaged in border trade between China and Russia for years. 

Many of the people coming into the city are from Chita, the administrative center of Zabaykalsky Krai, especially after Suifenhe in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province closed its border, resulting in rapid increases of arrivals from Russia in recent days at the Manzhouli border, the businessman told the Global Times on Monday. 

"Local hotels were packed with people and new arrivals undergoing 14-day quarantine and hospitals have seen an influx of people exiting and entering," another resident in Manzhouli surnamed Han told the Global Times on Monday. "Even some community health service centers were used as temporary quarantine venues," he said. 

While Inner Mongolia had recorded zero new infections for weeks and some restaurants reopened, the whole city is again on high alert due to the risks posed by imported cases.

A total of 118 medical staff from five medical teams dispatched from Hulunbuir, another city in Inner Mongolia made their journey to the border city to offer assistance on Monday, media reported. 

The city is preparing at least three hospitals, two designated hospitals for COVID-19 patients and another standby hospital, about 56 kilometers away from the city. It can accommodate more than 340 beds in 145 inpatient wards and is expected to be put into use on Tuesday, the Manzhouli government told the Global Times.

Facing the pressure, Manzhouli has closed all passenger entry ports and only the goods transportation port between China and Russia is operating normally while remaining on high alert.

To prevent the imported cases from infecting domestic residents, local police have been busy checking all vehicles and people entering the Manzhouli port from Russia. All arriving Russian drivers and their vehicles will be sent to hotels in the local Senfu Logistics Park for inspection, the publicity department of the Manzhouli public security bureau told the Global Times. 

While passenger entries will be closed, the port will still be open for Chinese nationals arriving there. Many of the passengers returning from Russia are laborers originally from the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and nearby Heilongjiang Province, some sources said. 

All passengers entering from the port will undergo body temperature checks and nucleic acid tests. They will all be quarantined upon arrival, and if they display symptoms of COVID-19, they will be sent to hospitals for observation, the Manzhouli government told the Global Times in a statement on Monday. "If the second nucleic acid test is negative on the 12th day of their stay at quarantine venues, they will be free to leave after 14 days."

The Manzhouli port reported that at least 71 people who came back from Russia were confirmed to have COVID-19 as of Monday morning, according to the region's health authority. On Sunday alone, 34 imported cases from Russia were confirmed, a whopping rise compared with the first case reported on April 6.

The Manzhouli government said on April 8 its inspection and quarantine capability was overstretched due to an increasing number of people entering China via Manzhouli from Russia. 

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