Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin signed a decree on Tuesday, February 18, temporarily banning Chinese nationals from entering the Russian Federation due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak that originated in China. The ban will come into effect on Thursday, February 20, and it is unclear how long it will be in effect. However, the new measures will not affect travelers who are transiting at Russian airports. Russia has already temporarily stopped issuing work visas for Chinese nationals and has asked Chinese students studying in the country to delay returning until Sunday, March 1.
Other travel restrictions remain in place as of Tuesday, including the suspension of all rail service to China and North Korea. On Monday, February 17, national carrier Aeroflot announced it will suspend some of its flight operations to China and Hong Kong due to reduced demand. All other major Russian airlines suspended flights to China as of Friday, January 31. The land border with China also remains closed as a precaution. Further transportation and travel restrictions may be implemented to prevent the spread of the virus into Russia.
As of February 18, officials have confirmed two cases of COVID-19 in Chinese nationals; one in the Tyumen region and the other in Zabaikalsky region. Further spread of the virus is possible in Russia in the coming days and weeks.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in 29 countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On February 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the COVID-19 outbreak is a "very grave threat."
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and trouble breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Potentially impacted travelers are advised to monitor the situation, confirm travel itineraries, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments.
To reduce the general risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
- When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue - throw tissue away immediately and wash hands
- If you have fever, cough, and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider
- Adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments
In the case that symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness emerge either during or after travel, travelers are encouraged to seek medical attention and share their travel history with their health care provider. Travelers returning from China who develop symptoms of pneumonia are advised to call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to avoid potential spread of the disease.