Amid fears that returnees may be responsible for spreading Covid-19 more widely, Russia has decided to halt repatriation airlifts for the time being, the government’s task force to fight the virus has confirmed.
The suspension comes after regular and charter flights were halted last month and goes into effect at midnight on Saturday. The task force said the move is needed “in order to maximize the protection of the health of our citizens and to limit the new wave of imported cases of coronavirus infection.”
Any Russians still abroad who wish to return home will have to fill out a special form available on the website for government services. They will also be provided with social assistance to help support themselves while they remain outside the state. The Foreign Ministry has been allocated 500 million rubles ($6.5 million) for that purpose.
Multiple news outlets reported the coming shutdown earlier on Friday, citing a message from the aviation regulator Rosaviatsia. The ban only applies to passenger flights, and none of the publications indicated it would affect cargo, private or humanitarian flights.
About a million Russian nationals have returned to the country on various passenger and charter flights over the past month, according to RT correspondent Murad Gazdiev, with some 25,000 still remaining abroad at this point.
3 April 20204,149 (+601) confirmed #coronavirus cases in Russia.34 have died. 281 have recovered. Russia ends all international air traffic. About a million Russians returned to the country over the past month. 25,000 still stuck outside, with no way now to get back.
— Murad Gazdiev (@MuradGazdiev) April 3, 2020
Moscow has taken Covid-19 extremely seriously, closing off the country’s land borders and limiting international flights in the early stages of the pandemic. The virus has so far infected some 4,149 Russians and killed 34, as of Friday.
Many regions have introduced partial lockdowns to combat the spread of the virus. Much of Russia has been given the month of April as a paid holiday from work and told to shelter at home.
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