January 27, 2020 / 8:43 AM / 23 days ago

Russian operators stop selling tours to China over coronavirus

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian tour operators have stopped selling package holidays to China due to the coronavirus outbreak there and are only bringing Russian tourists home, Dmitry Gorin, vice president of the Association of Russian Tour Operators, said on Monday.

The move was taken at the recommendation of Rosturizm, Russia’s state tourism agency, he said, as the death toll from the new virus in China rose to 81 with more than 2,740 people infected.

Russia, which does not have any confirmed cases of the new virus, has direct daily flights to several Chinese cities and has ramped up sanitary and quarantine control at all entry points.

“Tours are not being sold because there is a safety threat,” Gorin told Reuters. “Sales stopped on Friday.”

Moscow has been in talks with China about evacuating Russian nationals from the Chinese city of Wuhan and Hubei province that are at the centre of the outbreak, Russia’s embassy in China said on Saturday.

Wuhan, a city of 11 million people and capital of Hubei province, is in virtual lockdown and severe limits on movement are in place in several other Chinese cities. Much of Hubei, home to nearly 60 million people, is subject to some kind of travel restrictions.

Direct flights to Moscow from Wuhan were suspended last week. At least 140 Russians, 75 of them students, are known to be in Wuhan and Hubei, the Russian embassy in China said on Monday, the TASS news agency reported.

Around 7,000 Russian tourists who bought package holidays are currently still in China, Gorin said. Around 6,000 of those are on Hainan island with the rest on the mainland, he said.

Russians will be reimbursed for cancelled tours, while those being repatriated from China early will be partially reimbursed, Gorin said.

Russia is working to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus strain, the consumer safety regulator said on Wednesday.

Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov, writing by Maria Tsvetkova and Tom Balmforth; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Nick Macfie

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