Russians Leaving China over Coronavirus to Quarantine in Siberia

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a ceremony to receive credentials from newly appointed foreign ambassadors to Russia at the Kremlin in Moscow on February 5, 2020. (Photo by Aleksey Nikolskyi / SPUTNIK / AFP) (Photo by ALEKSEY NIKOLSKYI/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)
ALEKSEY NIKOLSKYI/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

Russia announced on Tuesday that it will establish a quarantine zone in Siberia for planeloads of Russian nationals evacuated from China’s Hubei province, epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

Russia closed its 2,600-mile land border with China last week, before any confirmed cases of coronavirus infection had been reported in Russia. Russia’s first cases of the coronavirus, in the form of two Chinese citizens who were quickly isolated, were detected last Friday.

On Monday, the Russians halted passenger trains to China, severely limited air travel, and announced they would deport any foreign nationals who tested positive for the virus. Tuesday brought school closings and the cancellation of public events in regions close to China, depicted largely as efforts to control another flu outbreak that has nothing to do with the Wuhan virus. 

The Russian government advised people to wear masks on public transportation to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, then told them not to buy too many masks because heavy demand could lead to shortages.

Plans were laid out to send two military aircraft to recover about 130 Russians trapped in Hubei province after the Chinese government imposed a lockdown. The evacuees will be kept at an observation facility in the Tyumen region of Siberia for 14 days, which is generally accepted as the length of time a person who contracts the Wuhan virus can go without displaying symptoms.

Tyumen is a regional administrative center and the oldest Russian city in Siberia, located at the intersection of river travel and the Trans-Siberian Railroad. The quarantine facility will reportedly be fenced in and patrolled by the Russian National Guard to prevent what might be charitably described as unscheduled departures.

The first Russian evacuation plane departed from Wuhan on Tuesday, with a second flight scheduled for immediately afterward. According to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova, none of the evacuees are displaying symptoms of the coronavirus.

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