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Healthcare

UPDATE 3-Kazakhstan suspends all transport links with China over virus

(Adds Tajikistan government comments)

ALMATY, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Kazakhstan is suspending all passenger travel to and from neighbouring China, the Kazakh government said on Wednesday, as an outbreak of a new coronavirus spread.

The government has also suspended the issue of visas to Chinese citizens, it said in a statement.

Buses to and from China have already been halted, trains will stop on Feb. 1 and all flights will be suspended from Feb. 3, the government said.

Kazakhstan has registered no cases of the new virus, but it has isolated dozens of people with respiratory infection symptoms on their return from China and is carrying out additional tests.

The former Soviet republic of 19 million has also refused to host the Asian Water Polo Championships next month or serve as a substitute host for the tennis Fed Cup qualifying event initially scheduled for Feb. 4-8 in China’s Dongguan.

At a briefing on Wednesday, chief state sanitary doctor Zhandarbek Bekshin urged local companies to make and import more protective masks to meet a surge in domestic demand.

Kazakhstan is so far the only country in the ex-Soviet Central Asian region to completely shut down travel links with China over the virus.

Tajikistan temporarily halted air travel and closed the land border last week until Feb.5, saying it was doing so at China’s request because of the Lunar New Year celebrations.

On Wednesday, the Tajik government said travel may resume as planned after Feb. 5, although its doctors would examine all the Chinese workers involved in local infrastructure projects who arrived back in the country after the holiday.

Tajikistan has also introduced additional checks at all border checkpoints with neighbouring countries, officials said. (Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Additional reporting by Nazarali Pirnazarov in Dushanbe editing by Larry King and Nick Macfie)

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