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Northeast China imposes travel restrictions amid surge in virus cases

A Changzhou-Changjiang Flxible bus in the Chongwen district of Beijing. (Robert McConnell/Wikimedia Commons)
April 22, 2020

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

Authorities in the northeastern Chinese province of Heilongjiang have imposed travel restrictions in the wake of a fresh outbreak of coronavirus cases triggered by people arriving from Russia.

Officials in Harbin, Heilongjiang’s provincial capital, which is home to some 10 million people, have banned entry to residential compounds to non-locals and vehicles registered elsewhere.

Anyone arriving from outside China or “key epidemic areas” is being ordered into quarantine, the city government said.

“All confirmed cases, suspected cases, close contacts of asymptomatic people, and close contacts of close contacts should be quarantined and tested,” the government said in an announcement carried by official media.

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Anyone arriving in Harbin from overseas will be place in 28 days of quarantine with mandatory testing, while residential compounds with confirmed and asymptomatic cases will be locked down for 14 days, the government said.

The city, which has air links with Russia, reported seven new confirmed cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, bringing total confirmed cases to 537, although 470 of those have been discharged.

Three infected travelers arrived from Russia, while health authorities have around 1,400 people under medical observation after they were in contact with known cases.

Near-total information lockdown

A Harbin resident surnamed Wang said the authorities have imposed a near-total information lockdown regarding the coronavirus.

“They won’t let us say anything [on social media]; if we do, they will shut our account down immediately,” Wang told RFA. “I don’t know what to say; I am pretty much in isolation right now, and I am in a lot of trouble.”

“It’s because of some opinions I posted about current affairs,” he said. “I only shared some items of common sense that are part of popular culture right now.”

Elsewhere in Heilongjiang, Mudanjiang city confirmed it has two current cases.

Of the recent infections in Harbin, 78 people were believed infected by an 87-year-old man surnamed Chen after he attended a family dinner and stayed at two hospitals.

Contact tracing revealed that he had infected family members, fellow hospital patients and their families, and doctors and nurses, both through direct and indirect contact, the provincial health commission said.

The infection cluster has already traveled to the neighboring province of Liaoning, which reported one confirmed case from the Heilongjiang cluster.

Authorities in China reported 30 new confirmed cases on Tuesday, 23 of them in recent arrivals from overseas, bring the total number of confirmed cases to 82,788, with 4,632 deaths.

Citizen journalist emerges to questions

Citizen journalist and former state TV anchor Li Zehua on Tuesday made a brief post to social media for the first time since his detention two months ago in the central city of Wuhan.

Li said he was being well-treated by law enforcement.

“The police treated me in a civilized manner while enforcing the law, ensuring that I had adequate rest and food,” he said.

He said he had been taken back to his hometown after being held in quarantine, but that police wouldn’t be pursuing criminal charges against him.

Rights activist Ou Biaofeng said the authorities likely told him to make the post to calm speculation about Li’s fate and fears for his well-being.

“I think they are just doing this to create a false impression,” Ou said. “They should never have disappeared him in the first place; he should never have been detained.”