This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Russia has closed its border with China over the coronavirus as countries across the globe begin isolating hundreds of citizens evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan in an effort to stop the spread of the viral outbreak that has killed at least 170 people.
Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said at a cabinet meeting on January 30 that the border, the fifth-longest land border in the world, would close immediately.
“The corresponding order was signed today, and it started being implemented. We will properly inform everyone of the measures linked to the closure of the border in the Far East region, as well as other measures by the government [to prevent the spread of the coronavirus],” Mishustin said, adding that there were no cases of coronavirus infection in Russia.
With a confirmed case in Tibet on January 30, the coronavirus outbreak has now spread to every region of mainland China. Infections have also been reported in at least 16 other countries.
Chinese health authorities have said there were more than 7,700 confirmed cases in the country.
The virus is thought to have emerged last month from a live wild-animal market in Wuhan, the capital of the central province of Hubei where almost all the deaths so far have been reported. Hubei, home to 60 million people, is now under virtual lockdown.
Some 7,000 tourists were under lockdown aboard a cruise ship at a port off the Italian coast near Rome after two Chinese passengers were isolated over fears they could be carrying the coronavirus.
Australia, South Korea, Singapore, and New Zealand have said they will quarantine all of their evacuated citizens for at least two weeks, while the United States and Japan planned voluntary isolation for shorter periods.
Meanwhile, China’s soccer federation announced it was postponing all domestic games in response to the outbreak. The World Indoor Athletics Championships, scheduled to take place in China in March, were postponed until next year.
The World Health Organization (WHO) will meet later in the day to discuss whether the epidemic constitutes a global emergency.
“In the last few days the progress of the virus, especially in some countries, especially human-to-human transmission, worries us,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.