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Tajikistan closes schools, suspends food exports due to coronavirus

DUSHANBE (Reuters) - Tajikistan is closing schools for two weeks to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus and temporarily banning exports of grains and pulses to ensure sufficient supplies at home, the Central Asian nation’s government said on Saturday.

Tajikistan, which borders China, has reported no coronavirus cases, although its former Soviet republic neighbours have confirmed hundreds. Cases of pneumonia and a suspected swine flu fatality have caused concern, however.

The country is not a major food exporter and relies heavily on imports for items such as wheat and buckwheat. The government said the grain export ban was aimed at conserving domestic supplies.

So far Tajikistan has taken a more relaxed approach to the coronavirus pandemic than its neighbours. Although it has closed borders and mosques, it has not imposed a lockdown of citizens and pressed ahead with soccer games, albeit with no spectators.

Reporting by Nazarali Pirnazarov; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Ros Russell