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China locks down city of 3.5 million

BEIJING (AFP) – A Chinese city of 3.5 million near the border with Vietnam was on lockdown yesterday after more than 70 coronavirus cases were discovered there over the past three days.

China, the only major world economy still sticking to a staunch zero-COVID policy, is on high alert for any outbreaks as it hosts the Beijing Winter Olympics.

Local officials in the city of Baise in the southern Guangxi region announced on Sunday that no one would be allowed to leave the city, while residents of some districts would be confined to their homes.

“Citywide traffic controls will be implemented,” Vice-Mayor Gu Junyan told a briefing. “In principle, vehicles and people cannot enter or leave the city… with personnel control strictly enforced and no unnecessary movement of people.”

Residents of some neighbourhoods in smaller rural cities and counties under Baise’s jurisdiction have been placed under strict home confinement, while others cannot leave their district, Gu added.

Baise, located about 100 kilometres from the Vietnamese border, on Friday discovered its first local case – a traveller who had returned home for the Lunar New Year holiday, according to officials.

Since the pandemic, China has built a heavily enforced wire mesh fence along its southern border to keep out illegal migrants from Vietnam and Myanmar – as well as potential COVID-19 infections.

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