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Thursday Jan 30 2020

Russia to shut border with China over coronavirus

Foreign ministry also advised Russians to refrain from travelling to China. Photo: The Moscow Times

MOSCOW: Russia said Thursday it was closing its border with China to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus and would stop issuing electronic visas to Chinese nationals.

Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin told a government meeting that the order had been signed "to take measures to close the border (with China) in the Far East". 

"We have to do everything to protect our people," he said. The Russian foreign ministry said that as of Thursday it would stop issuing Chinese citizens with electronic visas, which can be used to cross into parts of the Far East and western Russia.

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The foreign ministry also advised Russians to refrain from travelling to China and for those in China to get in touch with the Russian embassy.

Russia does not have any confirmed cases of the new virus but the Russian government has set up a task force to prevent its possible spread.

Kazakhstan detains two for spreading coronavirus rumours

Two ambulance drivers were detained for spreading rumours about a coronavirus infection in Kazakhstan, a Central Asian country that borders China, Kazakh police said Thursday.

The two men were detained on suspicion of "spreading false information about an illness from the coronavirus," said Sergei Neznayev, a spokesman for police in the region surrounding Kazakhstan´s largest city Almaty.

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"They heard something somewhere and began to spread the information" via the WhatsApp messenger services, Neznayev told AFP. Neznayev said the rumours had been "checked and disproven" during the course of the investigation.

Spreading false information is punishable by up to a year in jail under Kazakhstan´s criminal code. The former Soviet republic is one of a number of nations that have clamped down on Chinese visitors as the new coronavirus continues to spread across Asia.

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Authorities on Wednesday announced that visas to Chinese citizens were no longer being issued and pledged to suspend key transport links over the coming days. Kazakhstan has not announced any cases of coronavirus infection.

Rumours about infections have become rife in the Central Asian countries that border China. In Tajikistan, which also borders China, major carrier Somon Air denied a rumour that a passenger on one of its flights died aboard the plane after becoming infected by the virus.