Russia to ban entry of Chinese nationals to halt virus

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Chinatopix

In this Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, photo, a nurse prepares medicines for patients at Jinyintan Hospital designated for new coronavirus infected patients, in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province. China reported thousands new virus cases and more deaths in its update Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020 on a disease outbreak that has caused milder illness in most people, an assessment that promoted guarded optimism from global health authorities. (Chinatopix via AP)

BERLIN – Russia will temporarily ban Chinese nationals from entering the country due to the virus outbreak centered in China that has infected more than 73,000 people worldwide, Russian authorities said Tuesday.

The entry ban goes into effect Thursday at midnight Moscow time (2100 GMT) for an indefinite period, according to a decree signed by Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. The government said it took the move due to the “worsening epidemiological situation” in China.

Russia already had cut off most Chinese visitors by closing the long land border with China and Mongolia and imposing other travel restrictions. The new entry ban won't affect travelers who need to transfer flights at Russian airports, authorities said.

So far, Russia has had only three confirmed cases of the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus — two Chinese citizens who were treated and released, and a Russian national infected on the Diamond Princess cruise ship now quarantined in Japan.

However, Russian authorities have taken significant steps to try to keep the virus from spreading, including hospitalizing hundreds of people as a precaution after they returned from China.

Russia halted most air traffic to China, suspended all trains to China and North Korea, and temporarily stopped issuing work visas to Chinese citizens. Chinese students studying in Russia were told not to return until March 1.

Earlier this month, the prime minister said Russia might start deporting the foreigners infected with the virus.

In the meantime, Germany is sending a second shipment of medical aid supplies to China to help the Asian giant fight the coronavirus epidemic.