March 18, 2020 / 4:14 AM / 23 days ago

Coronavirus reaches Kyrgyzstan, via Saudi Arabia

BISHKEK (Reuters) - Kyrgyzstan has confirmed its first coronavirus cases, as three citizens tested positive after arriving from Saudi Arabia, the healthcare minister said on Wednesday, a day after the Central Asian country closed its borders to all foreigners.

Healthcare Minister Kosmosbek Cholponbayev delivered news that the pandemic had reached the landlocked nation of 6 million people at a news briefing.

Kyrgyzstan borders China, where the outbreak first began in December, and two of its neighbours, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, also confirmed their first cases this month.

All three countries and Tajikistan, another former Soviet central Asian republic, have moved to ban or limit public events and suspended Friday prayers at mosques.

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have also closed their borders and the former is locking down two of its biggest cities to contain the outbreak.

Reporting by Olga Dzyubenko; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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