January 31, 2020 / 10:25 AM / 18 days ago

No kissing or hugging, watchdog advises Russians amid virus fears

FILE PHOTO: Young women are pictured wearing a medical mask in Red Square in Moscow, Russia January 28, 2020. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s consumer health watchdog advised people on Friday to refrain from greeting each other with handshakes, kisses or hugs and to wear medical masks in crowded public places to try to stop China’s virus outbreak spreading to Russia.

Russia, which has no confirmed cases of the coronavirus but has close ties with its southeastern neighbor, has imposed border restrictions to prevent its spread.

Rospotrebnadzor, the state watchdog, told Russian businesses that employ Chinese nationals to extend their holidays until further notice if the employees are already on leave in China.

It also issued new hygiene guidelines in which it advised Russians to tie back long hair, avoid touching door knobs and banisters in public places and to avoid close contact with people with flu symptoms.

Russia said on Wednesday it would keep its land border with China closed to pedestrians and vehicles.

Rail freight is continuing to circulate between the two countries, direct daily flights are continuing, and a passenger train that operates between Moscow and Beijing remains in service.

The death toll from the new virus reached 213 in China on Friday and the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global health emergency.

Reporting by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Timothy Heritage

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