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Russia says it may deport foreigners confirmed with coronavirus

Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Kremlin/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Russia says it plans to deport foreigners diagnosed with the new coronavirus as an increasingly isolated China blamed the United States for stoking fears over the outbreak instead of providing concrete assistance.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin told a televised government meeting on February 3 that an annual investment forum later in the month in Sochi had been postponed due to the virus outbreak.

There have been two confirmed cases of the virus in Russia, both of which involved Chinese citizens.

The number of deaths in China from the virus, which was first detected in December, was 361 as of February 2, a sharp increase from just 57 the previous day, according to the country’s National Health Commission.

“Now it [the new virus] has been added to the list of especially dangerous illnesses. That will allow us to deport foreign citizens if they are diagnosed with such an illness,” Mishustin said.

“First and foremost we have to think about the safety and health of our citizens [and] forum participants,” Mishustin added, noting the “situation is under control.”

Mishustin’s announcement came hours after the United States said it planned “a handful more flights” to bring U.S. citizens home from Hubei, the Chinese province hit by the outbreak of the new coronavirus.

China’s Foreign Ministry accused the United States on February 3 of overreacting to the situation by being the first country to suggest the partial withdrawal of its embassy staff, as well as the first to impose a travel ban on Chinese travelers.

“All it has done could only create and spread fear, which is a bad example,” ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told an online news briefing.

The costs of the virus outbreak for China are rising dramatically, as researchers around the world scramble to create a vaccine with more than 17,300 cases confirmed globally.

On February 3, China completed construction of a new 1,000-bed hospital for treating the victims of the outbreak. The facility was built in just 10 days.

Huoshenshan Hospital and a second facility with 1,500 beds that is due to open this week were built by construction crews who are working around the clock in Wuhan.

Hubei has been under virtual lockdown, with roads sealed off and public transportation shut down.

Elsewhere in China, the eastern port of Wenzhou on February 3 became the first city outside Hubei Province to impose quarantine measures.

The city of 9 million is located about 700 kilometers from Wuhan on China’s eastern coast.

Meanwhile, a death has been confirmed in the Philippines on February 2 — the first fatality reported outside of China. The victim, a 44-year-old Chinese man from Wuhan, appears to have been infected before arriving in the island state.

Russia, Britain, and Sweden were among the most recent countries confirming their first infections as the virus has now been reported in more than two dozen countries.

The United States and Australia are among countries putting sweeping, albeit temporary, travel restrictions on Chinese nationals or those who have traveled to China within the past two weeks.

The World Health Organization has said the number of confirmed cases will keep growing because thousands of samples from suspected cases have yet to be tested.

The economic impact of the virus on China’s economy is “likely to be high, but short-lived,” a research briefing by data analyst Oxford Economics said on February 3.

Analysts there said the world’s second-biggest economy will grow by 5.4 percent this year, “compared with 6 percent forecast previously.”

The impact will mainly be felt in the first three months of this year shaving growth by more than 2 percentage points.