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China locks down a 3.5-million-strong city near the Vietnamese border

China, the only major country in the world to have a strict zero-Covid policy, is on high alert

China locks down a 3.5-million-strong city near the Vietnamese border
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More than 70 coronavirus cases were detected in a Chinese city of 3.5 million people near the Vietnamese border over the past three days, prompting a lockdown on Monday.

China, the only major country in the world to have a strict zero-Covid policy, is on high alert for any outbreaks as it prepares to host the Beijing Winter Olympics.

No one will be permitted to leave the city of Baise in the southern Guangxi region, according to local officials, who also declared that residents of various districts will be confined to their houses.

"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 several neighbourhoods in Baise's jurisdiction's smaller rural cities and counties have been placed under rigorous home confinement, while others are unable to leave their region, according to Gu.

According to officials, Baise, which is around 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the Vietnamese border, identified its first local case on Friday: a traveller who had returned home for the week-long Lunar New Year holiday.

China has constructed a tightly enforced wire mesh fence along its southern border to keep out illegal migrants from Vietnam and Myanmar, as well as possible Covid-19 infections, since the outbreak.

Residents are already being tested in large numbers, according to authorities.

Since the coronavirus pandemic first surfaced two years ago in Wuhan, Hubei province, China has deployed severe local lockdowns, mass testing, and contact-tracing applications to try to remove outbreaks as soon as cases are recognised, avoiding the catastrophic mortality seen elsewhere.

In the run-up to the Olympics, instances of both the Delta and Omicron coronavirus strains erupted, confining millions of people to their homes in a number of Chinese cities. The outbreaks were largely eradicated.

Following an outbreak of more than 2,000 cases in December, 13 million people of the northern megacity of Xi'an were placed under strict home confinement for more than a month.

Residents complained about food shortages and local officials' too strict execution of lockdown restrictions, which prevented patients from receiving necessary medical treatment, resulting in deaths in certain cases.

On Monday, China recorded 79 new cases across the country, 37 of which were in Guangxi.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong's zero-Covid policy is in jeopardy after a record number of new infections were reported over the weekend, prompting officials to scramble to increase testing capacity and warn that virus-control measures may need to be tightened.

China has largely locked its borders with the rest of the world, including Hong Kong.

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