JILIN IS REVERSING the lifting of lockdown restrictions amid a flare-up of new Covid-19 cases in the north-eastern province that shares borders with North Korea and Russia.
In Jilin city, the province’s second-largest city with a population of 4.5 million, transport was shut down again Wuhan-like from 6 am on Wednesday. (The photo above is an archive one of Jilin railway station.) City residents may only leave if they can show they have tested negative for Covid-19 within 48-hours of intended travel, and it is not clear that they can get back. Schools have reclosed and several residential compounds have been quarantined. Authorities have also closed places of entertainment and tourist spots and banned group dining.
Nearby Shulan, where there is also a cluster of new cases, was closed off on Sunday. Contact tracing has established connections between the two outbreaks.
Both places are some 150 kilometres north of the nearest border with North Korea. However, the main road from the provincial capital Changchun to the point where the Chinese, North Korean and Russian borders meet runs through Jilin, which also has road connections north through Shulan to Harbin in neighbouring Heilongjiang province, a hub for Chinese-Russian commerce, and which had reported 386 cases of imported infection as of Monday. Travellers arriving in Harbin from along that road now face 28 days of mandatory quarantine.
Inevitably a new cluster of cases has heightened fears of a spillover of infection from either neighbouring country. The epidemic continues to grow in Russia, which now has approaching one-quarter of a million confirmed cases. Heilongjiang is imposing 35 days of quarantine on travellers from Russia.
North Korea has yet to confirm any Covid-19 infections. However, the suspicion is widespread that there are cases, reinforced by the recent exchange of messages about the virus between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Xi Jinping. North Korea’s economy relies on illicit trade back and forth across the Yalu and Tumen rivers that separate it from China, providing a difficult to detect corridor of disease transmission.