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COVID-19: Russia To Close Its Borders; 139 More Deaths In Iran

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A specialist wearing a protective mask sprays disinfectant as he sanitizes the Moscow Cathedral Mosque to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in Moscow on March 27.

The global death toll from the coronavirus is more than 28,800 with almost 624,000 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.

Iran

Iran has reported 139 new coronavirus deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities attributed to the growing pandemic to 2,517.

Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour told Iranian state television on March 28 that the total number of cases in the country rose over a 24-hour period by 3,076, to a total of 35,408.

Iran is one of the worst-hit countries in the world by the deadly virus, along with the United States, Italy, and China.

Earlier this week, authorities enacted a new travel ban after fears that many Iranians had ignored previous advice to stay at home and cancel travel plans for the Persian New Year holidays that began on March 20.

President Hassan Rohani has pledged that authorities will contain the coronavirus spread within two weeks.

However, the continued rise in numbers, along with fears that the country’s health-care system is incapable of dealing with the surge of infections, have raised doubts about meeting that goal.

Russia

Russia will “temporarily” close its borders starting on March 30 to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the government website said on March 28.

The measure will not apply to Russian diplomats and the drivers of freight trucks, among others, the government said.

The announcement comes as the country’s health officials announced three new coronavirus-related deaths on March 28, bringing the total number of COVID-19 fatalities in Russia to seven.

Two of the deaths were reported from St Petersburg and the Orenburg region, while the third case was recorded in the capital, Moscow.

According to health officials, the total number of coronavirus infections in Russia as of March 28 stands at 1,264, with seven deaths and 49 recovered.

Authorities in Moscow also closed shopping centers, restaurants, and larger parks from March 28 for at least a week.

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Russian health officials warned this week that a sharp increase in the number of cases in the country is expected in the coming days due to expanded testing in Moscow. A consumer watchdog reported on March 28 that more than 166,000 citizens were under medical supervision for signs of coronavirus infection.

Earlier, the Kremlin said that a member of President Vladimir Putin's administration has been infected with the coronavirus, but that the person had not been in direct contact with the Russian leader.

Turkmenistan

The death toll among Turkmen migrants in Turkey who drank tainted alcohol has risen to 53, a source who attended funeral services told RFE/RL's Turkmen Service on March 28.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the 53rd victim died on the morning of March 28, and that at least 15 people remain hospitalized.

Doctors familiar with the case told an RFE/RL contributor in Turkey that the migrants from Turkmenistan had drunk tainted vodka and also rubbed it on their bodies in the belief that doing so would protect them from COVID-19.

The Turkmen migrants are being interred in a cemetery in Istanbul's Sariyer district.

RFE/RL has confirmed that relatives of victims have faced bureaucratic hurdles trying to repatriate bodies in the midst of coronavirus travel restrictions and border closures.

Medical personnel are seen near military tents that were assembled for future coronavirus patients at Dubrava hospital in Zagreb, Croatia.
Medical personnel are seen near military tents that were assembled for future coronavirus patients at Dubrava hospital in Zagreb, Croatia.

Police in Istanbul earlier said they had arrested more than 10 people suspected of selling the illegally produced alcohol.

Turkish police also reportedly confiscated tainted vodka along with guns and ammunition in the possession of the suspects when they were arrested.

Armenia

Armenia has reported two more deaths of patients who had been infected by the coronavirus, raising the Caucasus nation’s total to three fatalities.

In a Facebook posting late on March 28, Health Minister Arsen Torosian wrote: “I regret to inform you that two deaths have occurred in [Yerevan’s] Nork infectious diseases hospital during the past hour.”

“The victims are a 55-year-old woman and a 73-year-old man who had the new coronavirus in combination with other chronic diseases,” he added.

On March 26, Armenia reported its first fatality among patients diagnosed with COVID-19 -- a 72-year-old woman who Armenia’s health authorities said had suffered from multiple medical conditions, including heart disease.

Late on March 28, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian reported that 35 new cases had been registered during the day, bringing the total number of cases to 407.

According to official data, 30 patients with COVID-19 have recovered in Armenia.

Ukraine

Ukraine announced on March 28 that its number of coronavirus infections had reached 311, with eight deaths.

The new figures come as new measures ordered by the government come into effect.

Thousands of Ukrainians were reportedly lined up at the Polish-Ukrainian border on the evening of March 27 as they attempted to reenter Ukraine before new restrictions intended to fight the spread of the coronavirus pandemic went into effect.

Earlier, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in an online video address to the nation announced the country’s decision to shut cross-border travel after March 27, including for Ukrainian nationals.

Previously, the cabinet had issued a nationwide directive limiting passengers in all public transportation. All above-ground transportation such as minibuses, buses, trolleybuses, and trams should only ride up to half capacity.

Pakistan

China has sent a plane loaded with medical personnel and supplies to help Pakistan to fight the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected more than 1,400 people in the country, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said.

The plane carrying aid to Pakistan was met at the Islamabad airport on March 28 by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureishi.


The ministry said the supplies include test kits, masks, and protective suits. Beijing had previously sent ventilators to Pakistan and it is also assisting the country in building a special hospital to treat COVID-19 patients, officials said.

According to the ministry, the eight-strong medical team from China will stay in Pakistan for two week to assist local doctors.

Pakistan has reported 1,420 infections and 12 coronavirus-related deaths as of March 28. Pakistan says most of the infected people there are Pakistani nationals returning from neighboring Iran.

China is a strategic partner and major investor in Pakistan’s economy. Beijing has pledged tens of millions of dollars in investment under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, part of its ambitious Belt and Road infrastructure initiative.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, TASS, Interfax, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service, dawn.com, and AFP
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