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Coronavirus

Chinese cities quarantine returnees from Japan and South Korea

14-day isolation period hampers push to restart Chinese factories

Staff members do temperature checks at a subway station for Beijing Daxing International Airport. China is now trying to keep foreigners from bringing the novel coronavirus back into the country.   © Reuters

BEIJING -- Local governments across China are telling those coming from foreign hot spots for the new coronavirus, such as Japan and South Korea, to quarantine themselves for two weeks, a step seen heavily impacting business activity.

The city of Beijing on Wednesday urged those returning from countries with high patient counts to stay home for 14 days. Dalian is using government vehicles to transport returnees from abroad to their residences or hotels, where they are expected to remain.

The cities stopped short of naming specific countries, with a source citing diplomatic considerations. But they are believed to be targeting foreign workers stationed locally by South Korean and Japanese companies, many of which have a presence in Beijing or Dalian.

An apartment complex with many residents from Japan and South Korea put up emergency flyers in late February instructing those returning from these countries to report to management and to stay inside their units.

Other governments have been more explicit. The Fujian Province city of Xiamen announced Wednesday that all arrivals from Japan and South Korea must stay at a government-designated hotel for one night and undergo health screenings.

Many businesses were blindsided by these moves, given the Chinese government's push to reopen factories quickly in areas with low infection rates. "I was planning to go back to China to return to my normal duties, but there's no point if I can't go to work," an employee of a Japanese manufacturer said.

Mainland China had reported about 78,000 confirmed cases at the end of Wednesday -- more than 90% of the worldwide total. But a recent opinion piece in the Communist Party-affiliated Global Times said measures by Japan, South Korea, Iran and Italy "might be insufficient." The government may be seeking to redirect public anger away from its own initial foot-dragging.

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