Yunnan province’s China-Myanmar border city Ruili faces fourth wave of outbreak

Ruili City in Yunnan Province, located on the border between China and Myanmar, is being hit by the fourth wave of the new crown outbreak. The Ruili City New Crown Pneumonia Epidemic Prevention and Control Work Command issued a notice on Wednesday (July 7), adjusting the city’s Jigao Guomen community to a high-risk area for the epidemic from 10 a.m. that day, while other areas of the city remain low-risk areas.

The epidemic prevention and control work command pointed out that this adjustment is based on the need for epidemic prevention and control in Ruili City, but also after the assessment of the epidemic prevention and control expert group made the decision.

After the community of Guomen in Jigao was adjusted to a high-risk area for the epidemic, the entire community will be completely cordoned off from Wednesday. People are being told to isolate themselves in their homes and stay at home to avoid the epidemic. Meanwhile schools and stores have been closed for the day. However, some supermarkets, hospitals and pharmacies are still open for business.

On July 6, Yunnan Province reported 15 confirmed local cases of the epidemic, all of which were in Ruili City. On July 4 and 5, the number of confirmed cases in Ruili was only 3 respectively.

Ruili has a population of 270,000. Since the city shares a border with Myanmar, residents have been given priority for vaccination and most of the city’s residents are currently vaccinated. The Chinese government gives priority to residents of the border city for vaccination in order to create a so-called “wall of immunity” along the border to prevent the outbreak from entering from overseas. The backlash in Ruili has put the Chinese government’s “wall of immunity” policy to the test.

Two of the 15 cases confirmed on July 6 had previously been identified as asymptomatic cases, which are not considered confirmed cases in China. The other 13 confirmed cases were all confirmed through general screening in Ruili.

Of the 15 cases, three are Chinese nationals and the others are all Myanmar nationals, including two children.

Seven of the 15 confirmed cases have a genetic lineage that is highly similar to the delta-wing variant of the virus and to the characteristics of the virus in neighboring countries, Ruili officials said at a press conference Wednesday. Ruili is one of two regions in China where a delta-wing variant of the virus has been found. Experts believe that the delta-wing variant, first identified in India, is highly infectious.

Yunnan Province shares 4,000 kilometers of borders with Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, and the winding borders are often in mountainous areas. Illegal smuggling and unauthorized entrants to escape the epidemic have become a major challenge for border control in Yunnan Province. Ruili City, on the other hand, is an important border crossing point for Yunnan Province.

Zhai Yulong, secretary of the Communist Party of China’s Ruili Municipal Committee, who just took office in April, said at a press conference on Wednesday that Ruili will continue to strengthen border control measures. “We will crack down on illegal border crossing activities.”

Zhai Yulong’s predecessor, Gong Yunzun, was removed and demoted in early April for ineffective epidemic prevention.

The Jigao Guomen community in Ruili is currently the only area within China at high risk of an epidemic. There was also an outbreak rebound in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, from May to June this year, which included the spread of a variant of the delta wing virus.

The new crown outbreak first broke out in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, and gradually spread throughout the country and the world. However, due to the Chinese government’s vigilant defense policy, which includes strict precautions in border areas, the number of confirmed indigenous cases in China has been very low. Stopping the importation of cases from abroad remains a major challenge.

Ruili also experienced an outbreak surge in March this year, with confirmed cases largely coming from Myanmar. Authorities subsequently closed a bridge on the China-Myanmar border from Ruili to Myanmar and deployed additional border guards to strengthen border patrols and controls to prevent people from crossing the border illegally. Gong Yunzun, the former Communist Party secretary in Ruili, was removed from his post because he was ineffective in preventing the outbreak at the time.