Border city Ruili strives to balance daily life and COVID rules, manages to curb virus from spreading to inland despite of challenges

(Global Times) 14:33, November 06, 2021

The complicated border control situations, a long border, conflicts in Myanmar and the highly contagious Delta variant have made the Southwest China's border city Ruili stand at the forefront of epidemic prevention and control as well as border control, and the city government, while adopting strict COVID-19 prevention measures, also tried to ensure local residents' daily life.

The unique and complicated situations required enhanced epidemic prevention measures in Ruili, Southwest China's Yunnan Province, which has seen the small border city of 210,000 people placed under lockdown three times this year, and Chinese health experts said strict measures have successfully ensured that Ruili did not spread cases to other provinces and have guarded the border for the country.

Local residents have suffered from difficulties in life with the resurgence of the epidemic and three lockdowns, but the Ruili government managed to meet residents' needs, from psychological counseling to daily necessities.

China's dynamic zero-tolerance COVID-19 policy has been implemented flexibly and precisely according to different situations in different regions, and China will not abandon the policy at this moment, even for cities like Ruili. It might face more challenges to achieve it, experts said.

In a recent move, the Ruili government came up with eight measures, including giving 1,000 yuan per person per year for villagers who live in border villages placed under lockdown, waiving the quarantine fee for close contacts, distributing subsidies for those who cannot work due to epidemic prevention, and providing daily necessities for villagers living in impoverished regions.

The measures were implemented on Thursday, and junior and senior high schools would gradually resume classes on Friday, the government said.

The measures were introduced after the city, which faced the risk of imported cases, took strict measures in March, such as closing factories, restaurants and shops, which affected people's normal life.

Experts said that the stringent COVID-19 policies Ruili adopted were sparked by grave challenges in both epidemic prevention and cracking down on border crimes.

Since October, more than 20 percent of overseas returnees have tested positive for COVID-19 in Ruili, reflecting the severe epidemic control situation.

Zeng Guang, former chief epidemiologist of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Global Times on Friday that Ruili faced huge pressure in epidemic prevention and control and preventing crimes. The pressure "was hard to imagine," given that the city has a long border and frequent people-to-people exchanges with Myanmar and has to deal with transnational crimes.

Exhausted border control staff have to work day and night to prevent transnational crimes such as illegal border-crossings, and Yunnan Province also organized a civilian force to deal with border control, Zeng said, noting that "no other provinces face such a grim condition in border control."

Under such circumstances, epidemic prevention would make their daily border control work more difficult, and the sporadic infections are inevitable for Ruili, Zeng said.

Ruili timely detected and managed imported infections, and the patients were treated immediately. Almost no critically ill cases were reported, Zeng said. He urged people to appreciate the Ruili government's hard work.

Myanmar has reported around 1,000 COVID-19 cases per day this week. The Ruili government donated 400,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to the Muse region of Myanmar, which borders Ruili, on October 27.

Many ordinary residents of Ruili have contributed to the epidemic prevention.

A civil servant dispatched for border control work in Wanding port, east of Ruili, which borders Myanmar, in February, told the Global Times on Friday that Ruili built iron fences along the border to prevent stowaways since early 2020, and patrol stations every few hundred meters along the border have been set up.

Ruili is connected to Myanmar by mountains and rivers, and has the most number of boundary markers along the China-Myanmar border. With a border stretching 170 kilometers, Ruili has 10 ports, and villages in China and Myanmar are closely connected.

"Intermarriages along the border between Chinese and the Burmese are very common, and many villages have both Chinese and Myanmar residents. It's pretty normal for Myanmar residents to come to Ruili for medical services or business before the epidemic. The frequent communication and cross-border trade added much difficulty to daily border control and epidemic prevention work," a civil servant surnamed Zhang said.

He said some people sneaked into Ruili to escape the conflict in Myanmar, as he could sometimes hear the sound of gunfire from Myanmar while patrolling Wanding port, and some who could not continue work due to the worsening epidemic in Myanmar also tried to come to China.

Some NGOs and volunteers from other provinces and cities also helped Ruili fight the epidemic, as volunteers helped arrange food for villagers living along the border.

However, some Western media, while turning a blind eye to the complicated situations in Ruili, have targeted China's zero-COVID-19 policy, slandering China's anti-pandemic approach for causing "disruptions" in Ruili.

Zeng warned that China should not let the foreign media's sniping shake the country's confidence. "We are at a highland [of fighting the coronavirus] that they cannot attain. Those who mock us are from countries which have reported more than 10,000 cases daily, yet we report less than 100."

Zeng said that China, including border city of Ruili, has to stick to the dynamic zero-tolerance policy, even if it becomes more difficult and may take longer to achieve for cities like Ruili.



(Web editor: Wu Chaolan, Bianji)


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