A Reuters file photo.

Russia halts Chinese visa-free tourism, work visas over virus

Israel widens China travel ban over virus fears

Afp February 02, 2020
JERUSALEM/ MOSCOW: Russia's government on Saturday halted visa-free tourism for Chinese nationals and stopped issuing them with work visas over the deadly the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

An order posted on the government website said the measures were to "ensure the safety of the country, protect public health and prevent the spread of the new coronavirus".

The order, dated Friday, said that the FSB security service, which is in charge of border guards, should halt visa-free tourism from midnight Saturday.

Chinese tour groups visiting Russia have been eligible for visa-free travel since 2000.

The government order also said that the interior ministry should stop issuing invitations for Chinese people to work in Russia and the foreign ministry should stop issuing work visas.

Russia said Friday that two Chinese citizens had tested positive for the new coronavirus in the country's first cases since the deadly outbreak emerged in China, and announced new travel restrictions.

The government said the foreign ministry inform China that the measures were "due to exceptional circumstances and only temporary".

Russia on Thursday said it would stop issuing electronic visas to Chinese nationals, which can be used to cross into the country in parts of the far east and western Russia.

Israel widens China travel ban over virus fears

Israel's interior ministry said Saturday it was broadening border restrictions to bar entry to anyone who has visited China in the past two weeks.

On Thursday the country barred all flights from China over concern about the coronavirus epidemic, amid growing fears of global contagion.

Saturday's interior ministry announcement went further, blocking passengers from third countries if they had been in China at any time in the past 14 days.

The ban covers air and sea ports as well as land crossings from neighbouring Jordan and Egypt.

The order does not apply to Israeli citizens. Israelis who have been in China have been told to quarantine themselves at home for 14 days, even if they have no symptoms.

There have been no recorded incidents of coronavirus in Israel yet, but the health ministry said Wednesday it was "a matter of time".

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will on Sunday convene government ministers, top civil servants, health officials and the head of Israel's National Security Council to assess the country's preparedness, a statement from the premier's office said.

"We are aware of the fact that it will be impossible to completely prevent the entry of the virus," it quoted him as saying.

"Therefore, we will be prepared in advance to deal with the virus after its first entry to Israel."



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