Russia Reports First Coronavirus Cases, Restricts China Flights

(Bloomberg) -- Russia announced the first two cases of the novel coronavirus on its territory and imposed sweeping new measures to prevent the spread of the deadly new strain.

Two Chinese nationals were diagnosed with the virus in the Siberian regions of Tyumen and Zabaikalsky Krai, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova told reporters at a briefing in Moscow Friday. “They are under strict supervision, isolated and are receiving the necessary help,” she said.

Russia is canceling nearly 200 flights to China, while maintaining four routes from Moscow. The national airline Aeroflot will offer services to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong, and four Chinese airlines will continue routes to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, she said.

Russia will also close its border with Mongolia to Chinese citizens from midnight local time. Plans are also being made to evacuate as many as 641 Russian citizens from China’s Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province, who will be held in quarantine for 14 days, she said.

The quarantine rules will also apply to Chinese and Belarusian nationals with permanent residency who arrive from China.

Russia’s first confirmed illnesses from coronavirus emerged even as the government of the country of nearly 147 million people has tightened restrictions on travel from China. The deadly illness has infected nearly 10,000 people around the globe, while Russia, the U.S., and Japan advised citizens to avoid traveling to China.

Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin ordered a ban from Jan. 31 on people crossing Russia’s border with China, which stretches for 4,209 kilometers (2,615 miles), though freight continues to flow. Golikova said the Kremlin is also considering a temporary ban on working visas to Chinese nationals.

Stable Condition

The infected people, who arrived in Russia earlier this week, are in stable condition without fever, and the illness isn’t at risk of spreading, Anna Popova, the head of Russia’s public health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, said at the same briefing Friday.

A decision on whether to cancel a flagship economic forum in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi next month will be taken on Monday, Golikova said.

Russia has positioned itself in recent years as a key airline hub connecting Europe and China, with Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport reporting that it ranked second behind Beijing in passenger traffic as of 2018.

The Association of Tour Operators of Russia has said the ban on group tours from China could cost local travel agencies $100 million in the first quarter of this year. China is the biggest source of tourists to Russia, accounting for 1.3 million visitors in the first nine months of 2019.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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