Russia declares HIGH ALERT over Coronavirus Threat, Imposes Mandatory Self-Quarantines

Health authorities in Russia’s capital have imposed a state of “high alert” and a series of new measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, directing anyone returning from virus-stricken locales to self-isolate.

Returnees from trips abroad – namely from China, Iran, South Korea, Germany, France, Italy and Spain – have been asked to relay details of their travel to health officials, and to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days, according to a decree published on the Moscow mayor’s website on Thursday. That means forgoing work, studies and limiting visits to public places.

“The situation with coronavirus in the city is relatively calm … but, despite the measures taken, there is information about new cases,” Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin wrote in a blog post explaining the decree.

Therefore, in order to intensify work to prevent the spread of the disease, I decided to introduce a high-alert mode in the city for city services – outpatient and inpatient health care, municipal services, and transport.

Employers in Moscow, a city of over 12 million people, have also been urged to help monitor workers for signs of the illness, requiring “mandatory suspension” from the workplace for anyone with an elevated temperature. If a case is confirmed, employers are required to inform officials of all possible workplace contacts, and to disinfect any buildings the infected person may have visited.

The city’s emergency headquarters created to coordinate the response to the virus will now operate 24 hours, as authorities move ahead with plans to construct “infectious housing” units for those who may require quarantine, using “prefabricated structures” akin to China’s modular ‘instant hospitals’.

The “high alert regime” in the capital comes as other cities step up efforts to preempt the spread of the virus, with 700 students in St. Petersburg – the country’s second largest city – placed into quarantine on Thursday after a student from Italy tested positive for the pathogen. The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), a major conference set for this summer, was also cancelled over fears of the illness, in order to “protect the health of Russian citizens, guests and participants,” the event’s chairman said.

With Moscow a main transportation hub serving half of the country’s travel air and rail traffic, Sobyanin noted it would be “impossible” to close down its borders entirely, or to shutter “critical sectors” of trade, adding the city was likely to see new cases of coronavirus in the future.

To date, four Russian citizens traveling abroad and two Chinese citizens inside Russian territory have been confirmed to carry the virus, though the latter quickly recovered and were allowed to leave isolation, while the others are undergoing treatment.