China's Neighbors Close Borders As Country's Coronavirus Cases Surpass Last Major Outbreak

Nearly all of China's neighboring nations have at least partially sealed their borders or restricted travel to and from the People's Republic amid a novel coronavirus outbreak that has spread beyond even the figures reported for the country's last deadly disease epidemic.

The Chinese National Health Commission announced Thursday that, as of Wednesday, it has received a total of 7,771 cases of novel coronavirus, 31 instances of which were deemed to be severe. The contagious disease also known as 2019-nCoV has also killed at least 170 people, according to the commission.

The novel coronavirus' rapid infection rate has surpassed China's last major outbreak, the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus, which infected 5,327 and killed 348 people in China, according to the World Health Organization. Like SARS, however, the disease has also spread far beyond China's borders, though not yet fatally.

Still, the World Health Organization declared the new coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern at a press conference Thursday.

With about 100 cases reported in around 19 countries, Beijing and international governments have taken measures to restrict travel in and out of China. Now the world's most populous country has grown isolated as neighbors move to protect their populations.

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An empty road is seen in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on January 27, amid a deadly virus outbreak which began in the city. Nearly all of China's neighbors have totally or partially closed their doors to the People's Republic amid the spread of the novel coronavirus around the world. HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images

Afghanistan

The Afghan-Chinese border is closed to travelers, but Kabul gathered a joint ministerial meeting involving health, public, aviation and foreign ministry officials in order to discuss "necessary measures and actions."

Bhutan

Bhutan has no overland border crossing with China, but has called for vigilant efforts to ensure the coronavirus did not spread to the tiny Himalayan kingdom. Bhutan's National Assembly gathered Thursday to discuss a new emergency committee formed by Prime Minister Lotay Tshering in order to establish preventative measures against the disease.

The government has also restricted all official travel to China except when "unavoidable," according to the prime minister's office. Anyone entering the country with travel history to Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, are "requested to report to the health desk at the point of entry," a Bhutan Ministry of Health statement issued Wednesday read.

India

It's rare, if not impossible to travel between China and India by land, but the world's second-most populous country is stepping up its own efforts against the coronavirus, especially after confirming one case in Kerala. The Indian state's Department of Health and Family Welfare issued a document Sunday instructing against strict monitoring and screening measures for visitors with any travel history to China.

Kazakhstan

The Kazakh Interdepartmental Commission announced Wednesday that it had "adopted a number of additional protective measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Kazakhstan." These included immediately suspending passenger bus service to China, halting passenger trains as of Friday and temporarily ceasing air traffic effective Monday.

Kazakhstan has also stopped issuing visas to Chinese nationals. As for major upcoming sports games, Kazakh authorities have rejected an International Tennis Federation proposal to transfer next week's Federation Cup qualifying matches from Dongguan to the Kazakh capital of Nur-Sultan and canceled the Asian water polo qualifying championship that was to be held in Almaty, Kazakhstan the following week.

Kazakh Health Minister Elzhan Birtanov held a press conference Thursday on the coronavirus epidemic, assuring citizens that the government was taking special measures to prevent the spread into the country and instructing governors to regulate the price of sanitary masks.

Kyrgyzstan

The Torugart-Avtodorozhnyi and Irkeshtam-Avtodorozhnyi checkpoints at the Kyrgyz-Chinese border have been shut for a week due to Chinese New Year celebrations. The Kyrgyz State Border Service planned to reopen the crossing Friday, according to the state-run Kabar news outlet.

The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry issued a statement Thursday saying that its embassy and consular offices in China were receiving calls and appeals from Kyrgyz citizens across the border "on a regular, round-the-clock basis, as well as their relatives to provide the necessary information and advice, as well as to provide possible practical assistance and assistance."

Laos

Laos has stepped up screening and quarantine measures and has temporarily sealed off its Golden Triangle border region to Chinese and Myanmar citizens, according to the Laotian Times.

Lao Airlines has suspended all flights from the capital Vientiane to three Chinese destinations—Changzhou, Shanghai, and Hangzhou—in response to coronavirus fears, according to the Laotian Times newspaper. The airline announced on social media that it would refund passengers who bought tickets to travel to mainland China between January 24 and February 24.

A number of private schools have also been closed, according to Radio Free Asia, a U.S. government-funded news outlet.

Mongolia

The Mongolian General Authority for Border Protection announced Monday that, "in connection with the coronavirus outbreak, it was decided to impose some temporary restrictions on movement at border checkpoints between Mongolia and China, starting from 28 January 2020," according to the state-run Monstame press agency.

Movement through these crossings would only be permitted to foreigners or commercial transport workers presenting special documents approved by the government.

The country's State Emergency Commission has also "decided to close all schools and kindergartens in the country from January 27, 2020 to March 2, 2020."

Myanmar

Tun Tin, director of Myanmar's Central Epidemiology Unit, told Myanmar Newspaper that the country's "Public Health Department have always implemented monitoring activities at international airports, docks and border gates to prevent the entry of SARS, MERS, Zika and the Ebola virus, and we will continue to do so," in an article shared by Myanmar's Ministry of Information.

Central Epidemiology Unit Deputy Director Khin Khin Gy said authorities were "using thermal scanners to monitor all passengers at airports and border gates also have thermal scanners and non-contact thermometers to look out for signs and symptoms of the virus."

The United Wa State Army, an ethnic insurgent group controlling a semi-autonomous province that borders both China and Thailand, announced Sunday that it too imposing strict border measures and even shutting down entertainment centers in order to battle the coronavirus, as reported by The Myanmar Times.

Nepal

The Nepali Ministry of Home Affairs spokesperson Kedar Nath Sharma said Tuesday that the Rasuwagadhi border was closed today for 15 days "to prevent people infected with coronavirus from entering Nepal," according to The Himalayan Times.

Kathmandu, the capital city, has already one coronavirus case, a 20-year-old student who returned from China.

Nepal's Ministry of Health and Population issued a report Wednesday, noting measures the country was taking to prevent the spread of the virus including "thermal scanning and 24/7 operation of health desk at Tribhuvan International Airport" and bolstering personnel and supplies at hospitals across the country.

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Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin chairs a government meeting in Moscow on January 30. Russia said it was closing its border with China to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus and would stop issuing electronic visas to Chinese nationals. DMITRY ASTAKHOV/Sputnik/AFP/Getty Images

North Korea

The official Korean Central News Agency announced Wednesday that "the hygienic and anti-epidemic system will be switched to a state emergency anti-epidemic one till the danger of the novel coronavirus infection disappears." Other emergency measures have reportedly been taken to combat the epidemic in various provinces, cities and countries.

Travel agency Young Pioneer Tours announced last week that North Korea "will temporarily close its borders to all foreign tourists as a precaution to the Coronavirus."

North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un himself instructed officials Sunday that "sanitary quarantine should be strengthened at borders, ports, and airfields, and thorough prevention measures should be taken to prevent the disease from entering our country," according to the state-run Uriminzokkiri website.

Pakistan

Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesperson Aisha Farooqui told a press briefing Thursday that Gilgit-Baltistan province has decided to delay the opening of the Pakistan-China border crossing point at Khunjerab Pass in order to shore up antiviral efforts. The passing was set to be open this weekend but has been rescheduled for April.

"Pakistan is consistently monitoring the evolving situation," she told reporters. "All stakeholders are members of a high-powered Technical Committee, which is reviewing the situation and will be presenting its recommendations for the best possible solutions for the well being and safety of our people."

Pakistan's National Institute of Health also issued an advisory "to alert and sensitize the health staff at border posts as well as in healthcare institutions of Pakistan to stay vigilant about any suspected cases coming from affected areas for an early detection," according to the official state media outlet Radio Pakistan.

Russia

The Russian Foreign Ministry announced Thursday the issuance of electronic visas "is temporarily suspended through border checkpoints located in the Far East, the Kaliningrad Region, as well as through air, sea, automobile and pedestrian checkpoints located in the city ​​of St. Petersburg and the Leningrad region."

Spokesperson Maria Zakharova also said Russian embassy and consular officials in China "are closely monitoring the situation, are in contact with our compatriots and continue to work on specifying the number of Russian citizens who are in the areas where the disease has spread."

The ministry also said it was in close contact with relevant agencies in Beijing. Freight traffic and the import of exotic animals were also temporarily halted.

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People with protective face masks pass in front of a thermal scanner as they enter a shopping mall in Bangkok, January 29. Countries across Asia and beyond are taking measures to try and the coronavirus infection from spreading. MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images

Tajikistan

The Tajik Food Safety Committee chairman Muhammadsaid Ubaidullo told reporters Thursday that he has banned all kinds of Chinese food products amid coronavirus concerns and that "all products delivered to the country from the third countries have been taken under strict control," according to Asia Plus News Agency.

Tajik Economic Development and Trade Deputy Minister Tojiddin Dzhurazoda said Thursday that the Qolma pass on the Tajik-Chinese border has been closed on Beijing's initiative, but that trade continued through other countries.

Vietnam

Following a directive issued Thursday by Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, "the Ministry of Public Security asked immigration forces to suspend entry visa issuance to tourists from the novel coronavirus affected areas" and "tasked local-level police to coordinate with relevant ministries and agencies in tightening strict control at land, air and sea ports and encourage citizens not to travel across border crossings to prevent the virus infections," according to the country's official newspaper.

The country's Civil Aviation Administration called on airlines to reschedule trips and suspend flights to areas affected by the coronavirus. The readout warned that police would be actively "detecting, preventing and punishing those who try to disseminate false information on the epidemic."

So far, Vietnam has confirmed five cases of coronavirus, including two Chinese nationals and three Vietnamese nationals, all of whom recently returned from the Chinese city of Wuhan.

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A graphic provided by Statista shows the global spread of the novel coronavirus by country as of January 30, according to Johns Hopkins University. Statista
China's Neighbors Close Borders As Country's Coronavirus Cases Surpass Last Major Outbreak | World