Heilongjiang’s record Covid cases could pose problems ahead of harvest

Daily covid cases in Heilongjiang reached a new daily record on Thursday with the agricultural province reporting 236 new local cases. Cases were found across the province ranging from the capital Harbin in the southern part of the province to Heihe City which borders Russia in the north.

The province saw an outbreak of cases earlier this month with restrictions bringing daily case numbers down to single digits before spiking higher again this week.

The outbreak in Heilongjiang comes at a relatively bad time as the province approaches harvest.

Many farmers in China will seek work in nearby cities and occasionally return to their farms for planting, harvesting, and occasional field work. This created issues during the spring planting season in neighboring Jilin province where some farmers were unable to leave their cities or return to their villages to plant.

Harvest-related equipment such as combines or grain trucks will also frequently travel but could face restrictions. This was an issue during Henan’s wheat harvest over the summer and special guidance had to be introduced which allowed harvest-related personnel to take a Covid test and travel to another jurisdiction before the test result came back.

Heilongjiang may also face difficulty with a wider outbreak due to a lack of resources. The province is the second poorest in China, with a 2020 per capita GDP of 43k yuan, compared to a national average 72k yuan.

Officials are also visiting the province to assess both the harvest and the Covid situation. Xu Qin, the Party Secretary of Heilongjiang, toured some fields near Harbin while stressing the importance of food security and Covid controls.

In his comments, Xu said it was necessary to strengthen testing and proper management of people returning to the region for harvest, and “strictly prevent the risk of imported Covid caused by cross-regional movement of people and cross-regional operation of agricultural machinery”.