A Chinese city bordering North Korea is recommending its citizens to close their windows, in fear that particles carrying the coronavirus could spread from its neighbor through the wind.
The Chinese border city of Dandong has fared much better, but a recent surge in cases has prompted strict pandemic measures. But despite broadened lockdowns, more people kept testing positive for the virus every day.
Local officials, unable to pinpoint the source of the outbreak, have called on residents who live along the Yalu River separating the two countries to shut their windows.
The recommendations have puzzled health experts. “I’ve never heard of this happening before, where COVID-19 particles travel such great distances,” Leo Poon, a public health expert at the University of Hong Kong, told VICE World News. The river is hundreds of meters wide, although much narrower in some stretches.
Toshikazu Abe, the director of emergency care at Tsukuba Memorial Hospital, echoed Poon’s response. “COVID-19 traveling within a large gymnasium, maybe, but for it to cross villages? I don’t think so,” he told VICE World News.
The spate of new COVID-19 cases in Dandong and officials’ swift measures to control the spread of the virus highlight China’s struggles with its zero-COVID policy.
Unlike many other nations that have battled with severe outbreaks during the pandemic, China has been determined to completely eradicate the virus within its borders. In March, when the country was seeing its worst outbreak since Wuhan due to an Omicron subvariant, millions were placed under protracted lockdown, which caused food shortage, panic buying, and prompted authorities to kill COVID-19 infected pets.
Though restrictions in Shanghai and some other Chinese cities have begun to ease after two months, some neighborhoods have been placed under lockdown yet again after a handful of new COVID-19 cases were detected.