Mongolia locks down cities after reporting first coronavirus case

In a photo from Feb 1, 2020, a Mongolian citizen gets off a plane after evacuating from Wuhan, in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. PHOTO: AFP

ULAANBAATAR (AFP) - Mongolia on Tuesday (March 10) barred anyone from entering or leaving its cities for six days after the country reported its first coronavirus case - a French energy company employee who flew in from Moscow.

Mongolia had already sealed its border with neighbouring China and banned flights from South Korea in an effort to keep the deadly virus out of the landlocked country of three million people.

"The capital Ulaanbaatar and all province centres are quarantined until March 16 to curb the outbreak," Deputy Prime Minister Enkhtuvshin Ulziisaikhan said at a press conference.

The move means people are not allowed to enter or leave the capital or rural cities for almost a week, he said.

Mongolia is the latest country to enact tough measures to contain the epidemic.

China has locked down some 56 million people at the epicentre of the crisis in Hubei province and told millions more to stay home across the country. Italy has imposed restrictions on the entire country.

More than 4,000 people have died and over 110,000 have been infected worldwide, with China accounting for most cases, though infections are now growing at a faster pace abroad.

In Mongolia's first case, the French national arrived on March 2 on a flight from Moscow, said Health Minister Davaajantsangiin Sarangerel.

The man, who works for a subsidiary of French nuclear firm Orano, was supposed to have remained in quarantine in his hotel for 14 days but ignored the rule, the minister said.

He also visited a uranium mining project in Dornogobi province.

Orano has a subsidiary in Mongolia called Badrakh Energy, which mines uranium in the vast country.

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