China Closes Russia Border, Puts New City Into Wuhan-Style Lockdown to Contain Pandemic

Chinese authorities closed its land border with Russia and placed Suifenhe, a city in the northernmost Heilongjiang province, into lockdown on Wednesday after the Asian country experienced a surge of imported coronavirus cases.

The COVID-19 outbreak was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei last December, before it then rapidly spread to nearly every corner of the globe. Beijing's aggressive containment methods have drastically slowed the virus' impact domestically in recent weeks, with official cases plummeting and a significant portion of new cases being imported from outside the country. However, a recent outbreak in Heilongjiang has prompted Chinese officials to close its land border with Russia to keep coronavirus-infected individuals entering from the neighboring nation.

The Chinese embassy in Moscow on Wednesday night announced the temporary closure of all land border points of entry for individuals traveling between the mainland and Russia, according to the country's state-run CCTV. The embassy did not indicate when the checkpoints would be reopened for the two nations that share a roughly 2,672-mile-long border.

A drone view of an "Optics Valley Quantum" tram running as operations are resumed for two tram lines on April 8, 2020 in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. Getty

Health officials from Heilongjiang, a province which borders Russia, reported 25 new imported cases of the novel virus on Tuesday, according to China Daily. All these cases are believed to have entered through the passenger crossing between Suifenhe city and Pogranichny in Russia. China quickly moved to close all residential communities in Suifenhe on Wednesday morning to contain the new threat.

Under the lockdown, each family can nominate one member to venture outside their home for essential supplies every three days, according to the local epidemic control department. Mask and temperature checks will be conducted by officials, as well as resident permit and health checks. These measures are similar to those imposed on Wuhan's residents at the height of the outbreak in China. All hotels have also been closed and entry into the region has been limited to only residents until June 1.

As the land checkpoints closed on Wednesday, customs authorities in Hulunbuir, a city in Inner Mongolia, reported their first two cases of the coronavirus at Manzhouli, located on the China-Russia border, according to the South China Morning Post. Manzhouli authorities closed the point of entry at 8 p.m. local time, the Post reported.

Newsweek reached out to the Chinese Foreign Ministry for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

China's decision to close their land borders with Russia comes months after Moscow closed several checkpoints from their side at the end of January, when the outbreak escalated in Wuhan. As China shifts their attention to the new dangers posed by imported cases, the country's officials have begun relaxing the lockdown measures that've been imposed on their roughly 11 million citizens in Wuhan over the past two months.