Russia may deport foreigners with coronavirus, halts train to Beijing
Top Stories | Feb 19, 2020:
Russia said in early February 2020 that it may deport foreigners who test positive for coronavirus, as Russian military planes flew in to evacuate its citizens from the Chinese province at the epicenter of the outbreak which had killed more than 420 people and infected more than 20,000 at the time of the announcement.
Russia, which has a 4,300-kilometer land border with China, reported its first two cases of the virus in late January 2020 in the Siberian regions of Tyumen and Zabaykalsk. Both involved Chinese nationals.
Russia halted passenger trains to China as of February 2, 2020, and the last train from Beijing rolled into Russia empty after 136 passengers, all Chinese nationals, were taken off at the border, the RIA news agency reported.
Moscow has already restricted direct flights to China, its largest trade partner, and the remaining flights are being routed through a separate terminal at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport.
“We’re not scared yet, but if doctors diagnose [coronavirus] cases in Moscow, then of course [we will be],” a security official wearing a mask at a check point at the terminal for China flights said.
Beginning February 4, 2020, Sheremetyevo will be the only place where foreign citizens coming from China by air can enter Russia.
Border guards and customs officials at Moscow airports are wearing gloves and medical masks. In the capital, people have been rushing to stock up on masks and some pharmacies have sold out, the Vedomosti newspaper reported.
Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin told senior government officials that Moscow has formally labeled coronavirus a “very dangerous disease,” granting authorities enhanced powers to combat it.
“This will allow us to deport foreign citizens if they are found to have such a disease, and to introduce special restrictive measures, including isolation or quarantine,” he said. (Pictured: Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to Minister of Health Mikhail Murashko in Moscow during a January 2020 meeting on preventing the spread of coronavirus.)
Mishustin also proposed postponing Russia’s annual economic forum in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, which was initially set for February 12-14, 2020.
Postponement would free up the schedule of Energy Minister Alexander Novak, who is facing increased calls from his OPEC partners for a joint action to stabilize oil prices.
Military planes were to fly back 130 Russian nationals from China’s Hubei province on February 3, 2020, officials said. Separately, 58 other citizens had been repatriated via Russia’s far eastern border as of late January 2020, local authorities said.
The Far East Primorsk region has also opened special quarantine zones for Chinese people arriving in Russia, and they will be held there for 14 days regardless of whether they have tested positive for the virus, officials said.
Russia’s second-largest food retailer, Magnit, said in early February 2020 it was suspending fruit and vegetable imports from China due to the spread of the coronavirus and logistical complications.
In the Far East, some vegetables doubled in price and even disappeared altogether when authorities restricted trucks passing into Russia from China, but that measure was lifted on February 3, 2020, local officials said.