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U.S. Raises Alert Level For Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan Over Virus Fears In Neighboring Iran

A sign in Turkmenistan warns of ways to protect against the coronavirus.

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. State Department has raised its alert level for Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan over steps taken by the countries in response to the global coronavirus crisis and the outbreak being seen in neighboring Iran.

The alert levels announced on March 6 for both countries were raised to Level 3, one below the highest warning classification.

A State Department statement said Americans should "reconsider travel to Azerbaijan due to the risk of a significant increase of COVID-19 cases emanating from the Iranian border and the government of Azerbaijan's response to COVID-19."

It said the government in Baku was screening international travelers for the virus and had "implemented mandatory quarantine for suspected cases in designated quarantine facilities."

It also cautioned that travel restrictions imposed in other countries and reduced commercial flight availability could prevent travelers from arranging medical evacuation if needed.

"Medical care in Azerbaijan is not consistent with U.S. standards, and basic medical supplies may be unavailable in some areas," the State Department said. "Travelers should consider these factors and their health before traveling to Azerbaijan and follow the Centers for Disease Control's guidelines for the prevention of coronavirus if they decide to travel."

In a separate, shorter statement, the State Department said Americans should “reconsider travel to Turkmenistan due to travel restrictions and quarantine procedures instituted by the government of Turkmenistan in response to the novel coronavirus.”

The two countries have not been among the hardest-hit, but both border Iran, where infections have reached crisis levels with at least 4,700 cases and 124 deaths.

Azerbaijan has reported six infections, with at least three of them people returning from Iran.

There have been no cases officially reported in Turkmenistan, but the Central Asian country has shut down most of its borders in response to the crisis.

The United States already has a Level 4 travel alert in place for Iran, with which it does not have diplomatic relations.

"Do not travel to Iran due to the risk of kidnapping and the arbitrary arrest and detention of U.S. citizens. Those present in Iran should exercise increased caution due to an outbreak of COVID-19," the alert says.

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