Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan close borders after first coronavirus cases

FILE PHOTO: Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev speaks during a joint news conference in Berlin, Germany, December 5, 2019. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

NUR-SULTAN/TASHKENT (Reuters) - Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan effectively closed their borders on Sunday after Central Asia’s two biggest nations confirmed their first coronavirus cases.

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev declared a state of emergency, barring entry to Kazakhstan for everyone except returning citizens, diplomats and those invited by the government; Kazakhs are also barred from leaving the country.

Uzbekistan announced similar sweeping measures, barring entry for all foreigners and departures by locals.

The Tashkent government also closed schools, universities and colleges for three weeks, and canceled all public events, measures previously announced by Kazakhstan.

The Kazakh president’s decree introduced restrictions - without detailing them - on the work of large retail trade facilities in addition to the already announced closure of all entertainment venues.

Tokayev’s office said he would address the nation of 19 million on Monday via state television. The emergency is set to last until April 15.

Kazakhstan has confirmed eight coronavirus cases over the last three days, while Uzbekistan, which has a population of 34 million, reported its first case on Sunday, saying it has quarantined 150 people who arrived on the same plane from Paris.

Reporting by Tamara Vaal in Nur-Sultan and Mukhammadsharif Mamatkulov; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Edmund Blair, Frances Kerry and Alexandra Hudson