The global death toll from the coronavirus has passed 21,000 with more than 470,000 infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.
Here’s a roundup of developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast countries.
The Russian government has ordered the suspension of all regular and charter flights in and out of Russia effective from March 27 as the country battles to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
The government said early on March 26 that airlines would be allowed to fly to other countries for the purpose of bringing Russian citizens back home or if they receive special government authorization.
“Regular and charter flights from Russian airports to and from foreign airports are to be suspended starting at midnight on March 27, 2020, with the exception of flights aimed at bringing Russian nationals back from overseas…and flights carried out in accordance with the government’s decisions,” the government said on its website.
Russia had already put restrictions in place regarding air transportation.
As of March 23, Russian airlines were only allowed to service foreign capitals or large cities like New York and only from Moscow airports.
The moves come as countries throughout the world are restricting entry and exit from their borders in attempts to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Russian officials on March 25 reported a total of 658 confirmed coronavirus infections in the country, up from 495 a day before, with 120 of the new cases in Moscow alone.
Russia’s coronavirus task force also acknowledged the country’s first two deaths from COVID-19, describing the victims on March 25 as elderly patients suffering from pneumonia and complications.
An intercity travel ban came into force in Iran on March 26 amid fears of a second wave of coronavirus cases in the Middle East’s worst-hit country.
“Those who have traveled for the Iranian New Year holidays should immediately return to their cities without making any stop in the cities on their way back home,” Hossein Zolfaghari, a member of Iran’s national headquarters for fighting the coronavirus, said on March 26.
“The closure of universities and schools as well as the suspension of gatherings has been extended,” Zolfaghari said, adding that violators of the measures would face legal consequences.
Iran on March 25 announced that the official death toll had reached 2,077.
Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said “our colleagues have registered 2,206 new cases of COVID-19 infection” in the previous 24 hours, bringing total infections to 27,017.
Iran has rejected an offer from Geneva-based medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) to set up a 50-bed inflatable hospital in the central city of Isfahan to deal with the outbreak.
It has also refused the United States’ offer of humanitarian assistance, saying that Washington should lift sanctions if it wants to help Tehran fight the epidemic.
Iran has been under crippling U.S. sanctions in connection with its nuclear and missile program.
With reporting by Reuters, TASS, AFP, and AP