Russia to Close Borders as Coronavirus Crisis Escalates

Russia, the largest country by area, will temporarily shut all its borders starting March 30 after the number of coronavirus infections increased sharply over the last week. Health officials on Saturday reported 228 new cases of coronavirus overnight, bringing the total to 1,264, with four deaths attributed to the illness.

The order, posted on the government website, followed increasingly harsh restrictions of movements around the country. Moscow’s mayorshut all non-essential business on Saturday and recommended everyone remain at home to reduce contagion. The government halted all international flights on Friday and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin called on regions to close most businesses, while stopping short of ordering them to do so.

Cherepovets, a city of 300,000 that’s 250 miles north of Moscow, is planning to declare a state of emergency after seven new cases were diagnosed in the last 24 hours, the region’s governorsaid Saturday. Chechnya halted movement around the region and closed access to its capital, Grozny, Interfax reported Saturday, citing the speaker of the local parliament, Magomed Daudov.

President Vladimir Putin didn’t commit to any drastic measures during a national address this week, instead ordering a week of paid holiday from March 28 and promising benefits to get companies and individuals through the crisis.

On Friday, however, the Kremlin walked back the decision amid reports that some Russians planned to travel to the country’s vacation spots or visit relatives, taking advantage of reduced domestic air fares offered by the state airline Aeroflot. Mishustin ordered all Russia’s of parks and resorts to shut down.

The government is considering a temporary halt of domestic flights and trains, Interfax reported, citing an unidentified official.

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