‘It’s tough’: lockdown drags on for millions in Dandong, near North Korea

·3-min read

Dandong – China’s biggest city bordering North Korea – has been locked down for more than a month due to successive waves of Covid-19, and for frustrated residents there is no end in sight.

They have been confined to their homes since the end of April, yet case numbers are rising. So far, there have been 56 local cases but more than 850 asymptomatic infections, according to the latest figures from the provincial health commission. Five new locally acquired cases were reported on Tuesday.

The city – home to more than 2 million people – is located in the northeastern province of Liaoning. It neighbours North Korea, which is grappling with a Covid-19 outbreak that it claims is abating but the World Health Organization said was likely getting worse, not better.

Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team.

North Korea reported another 54,610 people with fever symptoms on Wednesday, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.

Over the border, residents of Dandong have been locked down since three Covid-19 cases were found on April 24. Since then, they have had to take daily nucleic acid tests and stay home – with limited options to get basic supplies.

“I’ve felt terrible in the past few days because the lockdown has gone on for too long,” said one resident who gave her surname as Wang. “It’s tough not being able to see the light at the end and not knowing when the epidemic will end.”

Sui Yizhan, who sells strawberries and lives on the outskirts of the city, said he had been relying on food and other supplies arranged by local community cadres since the lockdown began.

“Only fruit and vegetable stores designated by the government can sell food,” Sui said. “Luckily the prices are not too high.”

He said residents had been told not to leave the city and even visits to other districts within Dandong were restricted.

“I feel very helpless and I hope the situation can improve soon,” Sui said, adding that he had not had a steady income for more than two months due to the pandemic.

Gruelling gaokao exams put China’s ‘epidemic generation’ to the test

After the April outbreak, Dandong got back to zero Covid and had two weeks without community transmission. But a month after the lockdown began, a second cluster emerged at a school on May 24, when seven students tested positive.

Dandong officials have told residents they must continue to stay home and follow the pandemic control measures. The local government has said the two outbreaks are from different sources, but officials have yet to give further details.

There has been speculation on Chinese social media that the coronavirus could have spread across the border from North Korea. Some have pointed to equipment recently installed by authorities near the border to test air quality, suggesting the virus could have been carried over on the wind – an idea dismissed by many social media users. Others have suggested smuggling activities could be to blame.

The rail freight service between Dandong and Sinuiju in North Korea was suspended in late April, just three months after it had been restarted in January.

Additional reporting by Kate Zhang

More from South China Morning Post:

This article ‘It’s tough’: lockdown drags on for millions in Dandong, near North Korea first appeared on South China Morning Post

For the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2022.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting