Myanmar, China target illegal crossings after confirmed cases in Ruili

By Liu Caiyu Source: Global Times Published: 2020/9/15 19:29:51

Ruili port in Southwest China's Yunnan Province links the country with Myanmar. Photo: IC

China and Myanmar have agreed on a joint fight against COVID-19 and a crackdown on illegal border crossings after two out of six people who crossed from Myanmar to Southwest China's Yunnan Province illegally were confirmed to be infected with COVID-19.

The illegal border crossings prompted at least eight prefectures and 25 counties that border Myanmar in Yunnan to enter "wartime status," including Ruili, which is now under lockdown. 

After the cases were confirmed, the Chinese Embassy in Myanmar on Monday contacted the health and foreign affairs officials of Myanmar, saying the COVID-19 outbreak in Myanmar had rebounded and showed a trend to spread. The embassy said that confirmed cases imported from Myanmar by air and land to China had been found.

During a videoconference, both sides agreed to work together to better coordinate border anti-epidemic prevention and control, and to prevent illegal border crossings. China will continue to assist Myanmar in anti-epidemic work.

Ruili will assist Myanmar with materials and financial support, and help their border villages build strong epidemic prevention and control checkpoints. In addition to the current 48 border patrol checkpoints, Ruili will set up another 188.

In the early stages of the epidemic, Ruili sealed a river along the border, shut down ferry crossings and dismantled ferry facilities, and cut off illegal waterways. But local officials have admitted there are still loopholes in controlling the 169.8 kilometers of border with Myanmar. 

Such a long border will inevitably have illegal crossings, even during the epidemic, as many areas have no barricades. More illegal border crossings have been detected in recent days in Ruili, a city known for interactions among people from both sides, a source revealed to the Global Times on Tuesday. 

In an effort to plug these loopholes, the city has mobilized officials to go house to house to find anyone who had crossed the border illegally. They will gather information about Myanmar nationals in the city and strengthen the dynamic monitoring system, said Yang Bianqiang, the head of public security bureau in Ruili.

Those who are employed in the city will be given nucleic acid tests and quarantined, and those whose arrival records are not clear and who have no fixed jobs will be repatriated, according to the local government.

People who crossed the border illegally will be held legally responsible, and those who helped and housed them will also be penalized, Ruili government officials said. 

Home to about 200,000 residents, Ruili will be put under lockdown for at least a week, and residents will be given nucleic acid tests. During this period, no public venues can be open except markets and pharmacies. 

Local residents reached by the Global Times said people were being rational over the lockdown and epidemic, since the government and health departments are sparing no efforts in tracking close contacts. After the early phase of anti-epidemic efforts, people have gotten used to such conditions and they actively cooperate with the government in nucleic acid tests. 

"We are told to stay at home. But my business won't be affected much because since the epidemic began and the border was closed, China-Myanmar jade trade has been done online via live-streaming platforms," a jade market manager in Ruili surnamed Lin told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Now all markets in the city are closed and everyone is preparing to take nucleic acid tests, he said.

The anonymous source told the Global Times the land ports linking Myanmar and China have been closed to people since the early days of the epidemic, and cargo trucks were also banned as of Monday.

Last year, the Ruili port had 16.724 million entry and exit passengers and 4.846 million entry and exit vehicles, according to the Ruili border checkpoint.

A 32-year-old woman, surnamed Yang, from Myanmar took her three children and two nurses across the border from Muse, Myanmar to Ruili on September 3, and stayed at her sister's residence at the Aoxing Shiji community, which was sealed off on Saturday. Yang and one of the nurses have been confirmed COVID-19 positive.

Local government officials said the current medical resources are adequate for the  situation. The designated hospital has 400 in-patient beds, and 200 medical staff from the neighboring city of Dali came to Ruili to help. 

Imported confirmed cases revealed that Ruili has fallen short in a return to normality, Ruan Chengfa, the provincial head of Yunnan, said as he went to Ruili on Monday for an inspection.

Ruan told officials to learn from their mistakes and remain vigilant, to prevent the virus from spreading and causing a regional outbreak.  

Newspaper headline: Myanmar, China target illegal crossings after imported virus cases

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