Azerbaijan Shuts Border With Iran Over Coronavirus Concern

BAKU, Feb 29 (Reuters) – Azerbaijan said on Saturday it had closed its border with Iran for two weeks to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The move came after the death toll in Iran rose to 43, the highest number outside of China. Iran is at the epicentre of the outbreak in the Middle East, with several countries in the region reporting cases stemming from Iran.

Two Azeri citizens have been placed in quarantine after testing positive for the coronavirus, the government said in a statement, adding that both had arrived from Iran.

Azerbaijan said the decision to close its border had been taken “in light of the World Health Organisation’s recommendations and the experience of other countries related to the risk of the spread of coronavirus”.

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The government will start a process to bring back its citizens from Iran, as well as returning Iranian citizens living in Azerbaijan, the statement added.

Azerbaijan registered its first case of coronavirus on Feb. 28. It currently has three confirmed cases.

Neighbouring Georgia on Saturday reported a third case of coronavirus. Two infected Georgian citizens arrived in the country from Azerbaijan after travelling to Iran, while the third patient, a 31-year-old woman, came from Italy.

“The condition of all three patients is assessed as satisfactory, they are under the supervision of doctors,” Amiran Gamkrelidze, the National disease control center head, told a briefing. He said 170 people are currently in quarantine.

Georgia decided on Saturday to extend the spring holidays for schools across the ex-Soviet country by one week to March 16. The South Caucasus country of 3.7 million suspended direct flights to and from China on Jan. 29 for two months and took the same decision for Iran on Feb. 23, warning its citizens to refrain from travelling to both countries.

It has since suspended all travel between Georgia and Iran for two weeks.

(Reporting by Nailia Bagirova in BAKU and Margarita Antidze in TBILISI; Writing by Polina Ivanova and Margarita Antidze; Editing by Clelia Oziel and Mike Harrison)