2020/02/25

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Moscow targets Chinese with raids amid virus fears

  

Bus drivers in Moscow kept their WhatsApp group chat buzzing with questions this week about what to do if they spotted passengers who might be from China riding with them in the Russian capital.


Some Asian-looking (people) have just got on. Probably Chinese. Should I call (the police)? one driver messaged his peers. How do I figure out if theyre Chinese? Should I ask them? a colleague wondered.


The befuddlement reflected in screenshots of the group exchanges  had a common source instructions from Moscows public transit operator for drivers to call a dispatcher if Chinese nationals boarded their buses, Russian media reported.


A leaked email that the media reports said was sent by the state-owned transportation company Mosgortrans told dispatchers who took such calls to notify the police. The email, which the company immediately described on Twitter as fake, carried a one-word subject line: coronavirus.


Since the outbreak of the new virus that has infected more than 76,000 people and killed more than 2,300 in mainland China, Russia has reported two cases. Both patients, Chinese nationals hospitalized in Siberia, recovered quickly. Russian authorities nevertheless are going to significant some argue discriminatory lengths to keep the virus from resurfacing and spreading.


Moscow officials ordered police raids of hotels, dormitories, apartment buildings and businesses to track down the shrinking number of Chinese people remaining in the city. They also authorized the use of facial recognition technology to find those suspected of evading a 14-day self-quarantine period upon their arrival in Russia.


Conducting raids is an unpleasant task, but it is necessary, for the potential carriers of the virus as well, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said in a statement outlining various methods to find and track Chinese people the city approved as a virus prevention strategy.


The effort to identify Chinese citizens on public transportation applies not only to buses, but underground trains and street trams in Moscow.


Metro workers were instructed to stop riders from China and ask them to fill out questionnaires asking why they were in Russia and whether they observed the two-week quarantine. The forms also ask respondents for their health condition and the address of where they are were staying.


An employee of a Moscow-based company that employs Chinese nationals said that police officers came to their office on Thursday and asked a dozen Chinese staffers to stay home for two weeks. The visit took place a little more than two weeks after these staffers returned from China and went through health checks at the airport, the employee said.


The employee spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about what had happened.


The Moscow Metro confirmed that the underground system was actively monitoring the stations and has a protocol in place for dealing with people who have recently returned from the Peoples Republic of China.


We ask to see their documents and to show us documents (proving) that if they have recently returned from the Peoples Republic of China, they have undergone a two-week quarantine period, Yulia Temnikova, Moscow Metros deputy chief of client and passenger services, said.


If an individual does not show proof of completing the quarantine, Metro workers ask the person to fill out the form and call an ambulance, Temnikova said.


Source: AP





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