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28 Feb, 2020 17:05

Russia on red alert: almost SURROUNDED by Coronavirus cases - braces for epidemic

Russia on red alert: almost SURROUNDED by Coronavirus cases - braces for epidemic

As the world's biggest country, bordering 16 states, Russia is something of a sitting duck for COVID-19. With eight of those now reporting infections, its reappearance inside Russian borders is perhaps only a matter of time.

Already, two Chinese citizens were diagnosed with the new coronavirus in Siberia's Tyumen and Transbaikalia but they recovered and have been discharged. There has so far been no recorded infection of a Russian national on home soil.

As of Friday, Azerbaijan, Belarus, China, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Lithuania and Norway all have live cases. Other neighboring countries, such as Ukraine, have placed people in quarantine, but so far tests have returned negative.

Russia’s attempts to limit the extent of COVID-19 have meant strict rules on travel to and from China. Over the last month, Moscow has suspended the vast majority of traffic crossing that border, has canceled trains and reduced air travel between the two nations. Russia has also stopped many but not all categories of Chinese citizens from coming into Russia.

That entry ban has now been extended to citizens of South Korea and Iran. According to documents published on the government website, Iranian citizens themselves are temporarily banned from entering Russia, as of 00.00 on Friday. The restrictions apply regardless of visa – tourist, work, study, private, or transit. In addition, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also announced it was suspending the issuance of visas, invitations and work permits to Iranians completely.

Restrictions will also apply to South Korean citizens entering the country, as of March 1. With certain exceptions, such as officials and residence permit holders, South Koreans will be banned from entering the country at all checkpoints except Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.

South Korea currently has 2,337 confirmed cases, and Iran 388.

Although Russia has successfully kept coronavirus at bay on the home front, on Friday a fourth Russian citizen was diagnosed with COVID-19. The man, who is currently in Azerbaijan, arrived into the country from Iran. The other three Russian cases were diagnosed on the cruise ship Diamond Princess.

While this virus-free status obtains for now, the Russian economy has been badly hit, with specific sectors seriously feeling the pinch. In particular, the tourist industry. According to Maya Lomidze, executive director of the Association of Russian Tour Operators, the approximate loss of Russian outbound tourism due to coronavirus has already amounted to at least 27 billion rubles ($402 million). This figure excludes losses related to Italy, which is one of Russians’ most favored holiday destinations.

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