January 29, 2020 / 7:45 AM / in a month

Russia and China are working on virus vaccine - consulate

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia and China are working to develop a coronavirus vaccine and Beijing has handed over the genome of the virus to Moscow, a Russian diplomatic mission in China said on Wednesday.

The death toll in China from coronavirus rose to 132 on Wednesday with the number of confirmed cases now at nearly 6,000.

“Russian and Chinese experts have begun developing a vaccine,” the Russian consulate in Guangzhou city said in a statement.

It was not clear if Russian and Chinese scientists were working together or separately. The consulate in Guangzhou could not be reached for comment.

Russia, which has not had any confirmed cases of the virus, on Tuesday began screening all Russian tourists returning from China, the national consumer health watchdog said on Wednesday.

“The Chinese side handed over the virus genome to Russia, which has allowed our scientists to rapidly develop express-tests that make it possible to identify the virus in the human body within two hours,” the consulate said in the statement.

Russia has been in talks with China about evacuating its nationals from Wuhan and Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, the consulate said.

Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin ordered Russia’s consumer safety watchdog to draw up and present a plan to the government later on Wednesday on ways to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Russian authorities have closed some land border crossings to China in the Russian Far East until Feb. 7.

(This story corrects to Guangzhou city, not province, in paragraph 3).

Reporting by Andrey Kuzmin; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by John Stonestreet and Angus MacSwan

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