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China tightens Russian border checks, approves experimental coronavirus vaccine trials

Christian Fernsby |
China has approved early-stage human tests for two experimental vaccines to combat the new coronavirus as it battles to contain imported cases, especially from neighbouring Russia, the new front line in the war on coronavirus.

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Russia has become China’s largest source of imported cases, with a total of 409 infections originating in the country, and Chinese citizens should stay put and not return home, the state-owned Global Times said in an editorial.

“Russia is the latest example of a failure to control imported cases and can serve as a warning to others,” said the paper, which is run by the Communist Party’s People’s Daily.

“The Chinese people have watched Russia become a severely affected country... This should sound the alarm: China must strictly prevent the inflow of cases and avoid a second outbreak.”

China’s northeastern border province of Heilongjiang saw 79 new cases of imported coronavirus cases on Monday. All the new cases were Chinese citizens travelling back into the country from Russia, state media said on Tuesday. They formed the bulk of new cases on the Chinese mainland, which stood at 89.

Heilongjiang’s provincial authority said on Tuesday that it had established a hotline to reward citizens for reporting illegal immigrants crossing into the province.

According to a notice, people supplying verified information about illegal cross-border crimes will be granted 3,000 yuan. Those who apprehend the illegal immigrants themselves and hand them over to the authorities will be given 5,000 yuan.

As of Tuesday, China had reported 82,249 coronavirus cases and 3,341 deaths. There were no deaths in the past 24 hours.

Mongolia’s health ministry also confirmed 13 new cases on Tuesday, all imported from Russia.

As China fights to prevent a second wave of COVID-19, two experimental vaccines will be trialed on humans, state media Xinhua reported on Tuesday.

The experimental vaccines are being developed by a Beijing-based unit of Nasdaq-listed Sinovac Biotech, and by the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, an affiliate of state-owned China National Pharmaceutical Group.

In March, China gave the green-light for another clinical trial for a coronavirus vaccine candidate developed by military-backed China’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences and HK-listed biotech firm CanSino Bio, shortly after U.S. drug developer Moderna said it had begun human tests for their vaccine with the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

At a meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang on Monday, China’s coronavirus task force decided to deploy more health resources on its borders.

It said it would build hospitals and establish isolation points in border regions, and would also strengthen cooperation with neighbouring countries.

However, officials on Monday acknowledged that China’s long border and its large number of country roads, paths, ferry crossings and mountain passes made it very difficult to control.

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