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Kazakhstan to cut China transport links over coronavirus

By AFP - Jan 29,2020 - Last updated at Jan 29,2020

NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan — Kazakhstan has stopped issuing visas to Chinese citizens and will cut all major transport links with China over the coronavirus, the government said on Wednesday. 

The central Asian country does not have any confirmed cases of the new virus but authorities have hospitalised 10 people who returned from China with above average body temperatures.

Cross-border bus journeys are to stop from Wednesday, followed by the suspension of passenger train services from Saturday, the government said in a statement.

Regular flights between the two countries will be suspended from February 3.

Kazakhstan’s state rail operator said that the measures would not effect freight trains passing through Kazakhstan, a section on the China-Europe railroad. 

“Freight trains are running as usual,” a spokesman told AFP.

The disease has spread to more than 15 countries since it emerged out of the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, with the death toll soaring to 132 and confirmed infections nearing 6,000.

At the weekend Kazakh authorities ordered the closure of the Kazakh side of a cross border shopping zone at the Khorgos crossing.

The government has also said it will evacuate dozens of citizens, mostly students, who are trapped in the quarantined city of Wuhan. 

Kazakhstan, a landlocked country of 18 million people, is a key part of China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road trade and infrastructure initiative, and a close ally to both Beijing and Moscow.

The coronavirus has posed a headache for the former Soviet states of central Asia which depend on China for imports. 

China last week closed its land borders with both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan — a measure Beijing takes most years for security reasons during the Chinese New year celebrations. 

An official in Kyrgyzstan’s agricultural ministry said on Tuesday that the impoverished country’s government would decide whether or not to keep crossings closed beyond February 1, when they were due to reopen. 

In ex-Soviet Ukraine, two airlines said they would suspend charter flights to China’s resort island of Hainan.

Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) said it would halt services until February 24, while low-cost airline SkyUp Airlines said it would cancel charter flights until March 28.

Kiev officials said there are now about 10,000 Ukrainians in China and the airlines would evacuate some 800-900 Ukrainian tourists from Hainan in coming days.

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