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Russia, wary of SARS, to limit entry of Chinese, Mongolians
MOSCOW, May 7 (Kyodo) - Russia's Health Ministry on Tuesday issued a notice ordering local authorities bordering China and Mongolia to limit the entry of nationals from the two countries until further notice in a bid to prevent the spread of the SARS epidemic to Russia.
Russia, which shares a 4,000-kilometer border with China, has so far remained unaffected by the contagious respiratory disease, which has infected more than 4,400 people in China and caused 138 deaths.
Mongolia has reported eight cases of SARS infection but no deaths.
Until now, the Russian government has largely left preventive measures in the hands of health authorities of Russian republics that share borders with China and Mongolia.
Without guidance with Moscow, local preventive measures have been spotty despite a large presence of Chinese laborers in the Russian far east.
In the Amur region, local authorities have banned public events involving Chinese nationals.
In the Khabarovsk region, authorities restricted the entry of foreign nationals coming from SARS-affected areas.
While the Russian Health Ministry order signals direct involvement by Moscow to keep Russia free of the SARS epidemic, some diplomats have expressed concern that the measure could serve as an excuse for Russians in the Far East who are wary of China's growing economic power, to keep Chinese out of Russia.