Russia ramps up controls, shuts China border crossings over virus fears

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Three Russian regions in the Far East have closed their borders with China until Feb. 7 amid fears over the outbreak of coronavirus there, the TASS news agency cited the governor of Khabarovsk region as saying on Tuesday.

In Moscow, authorities said they had put in place special safety measures at hotels and tourist sites as the death toll from the flu-like virus rose to 106 in China with more than 4,500 cases confirmed.

Russia has not had any confirmed cases of the new virus, but has direct daily flights to several Chinese cities and officials said last year they expected more than 2 million Chinese tourists to visit in 2019.

“We have taken special control of hotels and other places where tourists gather en masse,” Mayor Sergei Sobyanin wrote on his website.

“When alarming signs appear, emergency medical teams will be sent to carry out a thorough examination.”

The border closures affect crossings in the Far East in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Khabarovsk and Amur regions, TASS said. Russia and China share a 4,300 km (2,670 mile) border.

Nine land border crossings to China are currently not functioning, according to data on the website of a regional branch of the state border management authority.

And Russian tour operators had stopped selling package holidays to China, Dmitry Gorin, vice president of the Association of Russian Tour Operators, said on Monday.

Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; additional reporting by Gleb Stolyarov; writing by Tom Balmforth