COVID Outbreak in Chinese City Spurs Crackdown on Crossings From Myanmar

A coronavirus outbreak in Ruili, China, a city located along the nation's border with Myanmar, has prompted a crackdown on illegal border crossings and a city-wide quarantine.

At least nine people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Ruili, which has a population of about 210,000 people. Of those nine, five were identified as Chinese citizens and four were identified as Myanmar nationals, the Associated Press reported.

The outbreak was discovered during routine coronavirus testing of the city's population, the Yunnan health commission said in a statement. However, the commission did not say how the outbreak began.

The city said it will now be testing all city residents for the coronavirus, and it has ordered citizens to quarantine at home for one week. Those who tested positive for COVID-19 range in age from 22 to 42 years old with and are under lockdown in a residential compound.

Among them, three did not have any symptoms, while four had mild virus symptoms, and one was classified as a regular COVID-19 case.

Ruili also announced that it would crack down on people who cross the border illegally, along with anyone who shelters or illegal immigrants or organizes their border crossings, the Associated Press reported.

Now, the city will only allow individuals with a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours to leave Ruili and will advise all people and vehicles coming to the city to turn back, Reuters reported.

A resident is tested for the COVID-19 coronavirus in Ruili in China's southwestern Yunnan province on September 15, 2020. STR/AFP/Getty Images

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

The government has stepped up border control efforts since the coronavirus outbreak to try to stem the flow of people in both directions. Residents told the AP that government workers have been recruited to do monitoring shifts along the border.

A military and police crackdown on protesters in Myanmar may be driving more people across the border, though it is difficult to gauge. Border control is considered an important part of China's coronavirus prevention efforts.

China has largely eradicated the spread of the coronavirus and takes strict measures whenever a new cluster emerges. Ruili has closed all businesses except supermarkets, drugstores and food markets. Checkpoints were set up to limit entry to epidemic-related vehicles.

The first case was identified Monday, and subsequent testing of close contacts and others turned up the other ones, the Yunnan Health Commission said.

Ruili, a gateway for China-Myanmar trade, had a COVID-19 scare last September when two people who had crossed illegally from Myanmar tested positive, according to state media reports. A commentary in the official Xinhua News Agency on Wednesday asked if lessons had been learned from that incident or whether there are still loopholes.