China Locks Down Border Towns After Burmese Migrants Test Positive for COVID-19

Thursday, September 17, 2020

China has imposed lockdowns in the towns of Ruili and Jiegao, on the border with Shan State, after two Burmese migrants recently tested positive for COVID-19.

According to migrant workers who spoke to NMG, the Chinese authorities have been compiling a list of all residents of the town since September 15 for the purpose of testing them for the coronavirus.

“They will take swabs from all the people. We already registered at a school today. We have to give our name, address, and phone number,” Ma Myint, a Burmese national who works in Ruili, explained, adding that “all people” includes Chinese, Bamar, and Shan people in the area. “All schools are being closed. Health workers came to our house yesterday. They asked how many people lived in this house. They will test people in this village within the next three days.”

She said that authorities were accepting Burmese border passes and travel documents and sufficient ID for the workers checking who is in the town.

“They will check whether Burmese migrants officially came into China. I don’t know what will happen next. They didn’t say if they would deport Burmese migrants,” Ma Myint told NMG. “We are in a wait-and-see situation. They have systematically collected information, village by village, ward by ward. They worked very fast.”

Ma Myint added that people have been told only three people can stay in an apartment, and landlords are required to report their tenants to the police.

Thiha, a Burmese jade trader in Ruili, reported a similar situation to Ma Myint, regarding the collection of personal information.

“I’ve heard that they will test people [for COVID-19] within three days. They have restricted travel these days. The jade market isn’t working. They have really restricted things lately,” he told NMG.

The COVID-19 tests will reportedly be provided free of charge.

The two migrants who tested positive for the coronavirus are receiving treatment in Mangxi town.

While the border crossings between Jiegao and Mang Weing gates have been closed, the Chinese authorities will open the gates for people who want to return to Burma from China, according to local sources.