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Kazakhstan Suspending Flights To Iran Over Coronavirus; Russia Issues Travel Warning

Coronavirus in Iran, Baghiatollah Hospital in Tehran. February 26, 2020

Kazakhstan's chief sanitary doctor says the country plans to suspend flights to and from Iran from March 1 because of the spread of the new coronavirus.

Zhandarbek Bekshin told a press briefing in Nur-Sultan on February 26 that Kazakhstan will also reduce the number of flights to and from South Korea, another country with a large number of coronavirus cases, from nine to three per week.

Kazakhstan has registered no cases of the coronavirus, which has infected more than 80,000 people globally, causing around 2,700 deaths, mainly in China.

South Korea has the most infections outside China -- more than 1,000. Ten people have died from the disease.

Iran has nearly 135 confirmed cases of coronavirus and officially 19 deaths, but there has been speculation that Tehran is underreporting the extent of the outbreak in the country.

The country is believed to have been the source of the first cases reported by neighboring Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, and Oman, which have already imposed restrictions on travel to and from the Islamic republic.

Other countries including Pakistan, Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, and Tajikistan have taken similar measures in an effort to curtail the disease's spread.

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Several European countries -- Austria, Croatia, Spain, and Switzerland -- announced their first coronavirus cases involving people who had been to Italy, as did Algeria in North Africa.

In recent days, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, and Oman also reported their first cases -- all involving people who had come from Iran.

Russia’s consumer-protection agency, meanwhile, has advised citizens not to travel to Italy, South Korea, or Iran.

The regulator, Rospotrebnadzor, on February 26 warned Russians against traveling to the three countries "until the epidemiological situation stabilized."

Moscow had previously imposed a near blanket ban on Chinese visitors over coronavirus fears and has recommended against travel to China.

Two cases found in Russia -- one in the Siberian city of Chita and one in the Tyumen region -- involved Chinese nationals. They both recovered and were discharged from hospital.

Rospotrebnadzor said no new cases have been registered in the country.

Speaking to reporters in Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded that Iranian officials "tell the truth" about the outbreak in that country.

"The United States is deeply concerned by information indicating the Iranian regime may have suppressed vital details about the outbreak in that country," Pompeo said.

The epidemic's disruption has caused stock markets to slump around the world, restrictions to be imposed on travelers, and sporting events to be canceled.

But Bruce Aylward, who led a World Health Organization-led investigative mission to China, said one of his conclusions for the rest of the world is that it is "simply not ready" to contain the outbreak.

"You have to be ready to manage this at a larger scale...and it has to be done fast," Aylward said at a Geneva news conference.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, the BBC, and dpa