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7 Feb, 2020 13:59

Largest city in Russia’s Far East to introduce ‘mask regime’ from Monday as coronavirus fears spread

Largest city in Russia’s Far East to introduce ‘mask regime’ from Monday as coronavirus fears spread

Located only 20km (12.4 miles) from China and straddling the banks of the shared Amur River, Khabarovsk in Russia’s Far East is especially vulnerable to the new coronavirus sweeping its southern neighbor.

So far, however, the city of over 600,000 people has not reported any infections. Nevertheless, officials are not taking any chances. From Monday, a compulsory “mask regime” will be introduced, as a precautionary measure. The move follows the closure of border crossings last week.

The rule will apply to almost every category of worker who deals with the public including teachers, doctors, retail and bank staff, as well as couriers and taxi drivers. Restrictions will also be placed on large public gatherings, be they cultural or social.

The masks will have to be replaced every two hours, with stocks not currently an issue. At a meeting of the city’s emergency commission, it was announced that there were enough masks in the city’s pharmacies for everyone.

“Now we have about 40,000 pieces in warehouses, and on February 12 we plan to get another 50,000 masks,” reports Denis Ulybyshev, director of a local pharmacy group.

The cost of medical masks has risen in almost all regions of Russia, according to the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS). In the Far East, prices more than doubled with some places reporting a ten-fold increase.

“The emergency measures are related to the increase in the incidence of seasonal flu and common cold in Khabarovsk, as well as to prevent infection with coronavirus in case it reaches the city,” Tatyana Skorik, a local health official, said. “I remind you that masks are a proven means of protection. It is not necessary to wear them on the street, only inside the premises.”

One resident told RT that concern is primarily fueled by false information spread on social media, but the situation is generally calm.

“Nobody wears masks (yet), it’s not convenient for children in the kindergarten and I don’t see a lot of people wearing them on the streets,” said Irina Sorkina. “I’ve limited trips to shopping malls, markets, and any public places, also I’m avoiding public transport. Otherwise, everything is normal,” she added.

Also on rt.com Russia closes its Far East border with China in attempt to prevent spread of new coronavirus

As of Friday morning, the total number of people infected worldwide by the new coronavirus exceeded 31,000. 636 people have died. Most of the deaths, 618 so far, have been recorded in the Chinese province of Hubei, the center of the outbreak. Two cases have been identified in Russia. Both patients are Chinese citizens.

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