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Yunnan is on alert for imported cases of the coronavirus. Photo: Xinhua

China’s Yunnan province bars citizens from leaving the country to stop coronavirus spread

  • Authorities limit land and river ports to cargo traffic, locking down border communities
  • Province on alert for imported cases of Covid-19
The southwestern province of Yunnan has banned Chinese citizens from leaving the country via its more than 30 land and river ports to stop the spread of the coronavirus epidemic through returning nationals.

Yunnan, which borders Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar, had restricted its 19 land ports and 14 river ports to cargo, the provincial government said on Tuesday.

The authorities said that from Tuesday night, all departures by Chinese citizens via the checkpoints would be suspended, with exemptions granted for approved foreign aid, technical support or emergency medical workers.

China closed its borders to foreign travellers and residency holders on Saturday. But non-Chinese residents of border areas who have permits to cross into Yunnan could still enter the province, according to a previous report by China News Service.

Those permit holders can still cross into Yunnan but will be discouraged from doing so. Under the new restrictions, they will need to test negative for two nucleic acid tests and one antibody test before being put in seven days of centralised isolation and another seven days of home isolation, all at their own expense.

Residents in border cities and counties will be restricted to the village and community level to prevent entry and exit of outsiders. They would also be encouraged to report illegal immigrants, the government said.

Yunnan, which recorded 174 local coronavirus cases including two deaths, said all patients in its initial wave were discharged by March 14. The province is now on alert for imported cases, with eight patients who travelled to the province from overseas being treated as of Tuesday.

Xiao Xian, a professor of international relations from Yunnan University, said some permit holders could be deterred from crossing into Yunnan by the cost of tests and quarantine.

Xiao also said that banning Chinese citizens from crossing the border would affect border trade and tourism, but it was necessary to stop transmission of the coronavirus.

“The need to prevent the spread of an infectious disease outweighs trade and tourism. It is understandable since it is the country’s top priority now,” Xiao said.

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This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: yunnan suspends land and river crossings, locking down border communities