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Face masks made mandatory in Russia’s Khabarovsk to prevent coronavirus spread

NOVOSIBIRSK, RUSSIA - JANUARY 30, 2020: Flight attendants wear medical masks at Novosibirsk International Airport imposing strict health control measures, officials remotely taking temperature of passengers arriving from China in connection with the outbreak of a pneumonia-like coronavirus in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019. Latest reports put the total number of 2019-nCoV cases over 7,000 with 170 of them fatal. Kirill Kukhmar/TASS. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

KHABAROVSK, Feb 7, 2020, TASS. Khabarovsk has made the wearing of face masks obligatory to fight the spike in respiratory diseases and prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the city administration said Friday, TASS reported.

“This decision has been made by the city commission on the prevention and liquidation of emergencies. Wearing filter masks is obligatory for transport, retail, and bank employees, teachers, doctors and everyone who comes in contact with large numbers of people every day,” the message says, adding that wearing masks outdoors is not required. Masks are only mandatory indoors and must be changed every two hours.

The city is also curtailing mass events in social, medical, educational, commercial, services and catering organizations.

“These compulsory measures are caused by a spike in the seasonal flu and common cold in Khabarovsk, as well as to prevent the coronavirus, should the infection permeate into the city,” said Tatiana Skorik, Deputy Chairwoman of the city administration’s Health, Fitness and Sports Department.

Mask sale restriction

The city commission on emergencies assured that there are enough masks in stores for everyone, despite the sale restrictions introduced last week.

“We have some 40,000 masks in stock at the moment,” says Denis Ulybyshev, head of the ‘Pharmacia’ regional budgetary institution. “On February 12, we plan to receive 50,000 more. […] Last week, a sale restriction was introduced,” he noted in which “no more than 15 masks,” could be acquired by one person.

Khabarovsk pharmacies face heightened demand for masks, says regional Health Ministry. They are being bought wholesale for future reselling or for export in China.

“[People] posing as companies seek to buy one, two, three hundred thousand masks. Three weeks ago, Khabarovsk warehouses had some 1.5 million masks… all are sold out now,” the message says.

Khabarovsk educational organizations have introduced mandatory decontamination and morning medical exams. Both sick children and sick employees are sent back home. Children who were absent for three days are barred from coming back to school without a medical certificate.

The flu and common colds are currently below the epidemic threshold by 10.6%. The flu has been diagnosed in 24 people. Two schools and 58 individual classes of 18 more schools have been quarantined. Twelve kindergartens suspended accepting children.

According to Anna Kuznetsova, a Ministry of Health infection specialist, no coronavirus cases were identified in the Khabarovsk region. Twenty-four Chinese residents who came to the region have been quarantined for two weeks.

About the coronavirus

The Chinese authorities registered an outbreak of the new coronavirus 2019-nCoV in the city of Wuhan. Cases of new coronavirus were confirmed in 25 other countries, including in Russia. The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. According to latest reports, over 31,500 cases of new coronavirus were confirmed in China, the death toll climbed to 636, and over 1,600 people have recovered from the virus.

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