The suspension does not apply to cargo, postal, sanitary, and humanitarian shipments, according to a spokesperson for the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency cited by TASS. Airlines will only perform flights to bring Russians back home.
Russia has gradually tightened restrictions on international flights since February. China and South Korea were first on the list and the suspensions later expanded to Spain, Italy, Germany, and France. The suspension expanded to 95 countries on March 23.
Aeroflot, Russia’s flagship carrier, evacuated 52,000 people back to Russia since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Russia’s major airlines have also suspended flights out of the country.
The number of CCP virus cases in Russia grew by 196 to 1,036 cases in 24 hours, the nations pandemic monitoring center reported on March 27. The center announced the third death from the virus on Friday.
The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China and create a global pandemic.
Of the 196 cases, 157 were confirmed in Moscow. The capital’s mayor ordered all restaurants, bars, shops, and parks closed for a week starting on March 28, CNN reported.
“The restrictions introduced today are unprecedented in the modern history of Moscow and will create many inconveniences for the everyday life of every person,” Mayor Sergey Sobyanin said on Thursday. “But believe me, they are absolutely necessary in order to slow the spread of coronavirus infection and reduce the number of cases.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin steered clear of ordering an outright lockdown to address the outbreak and left it to local officials to enact mitigation measures. The Russian president asked Russians to stay at home for a week, except for those who work in stores, pharmacies, and banks.
“Don’t think ‘I won’t be hurt.’ Anyone could be hurt, and what’s going on now in many countries in Western Europe and across the ocean could be our near future,” Putin said. “Believe me, the safest thing you can do now is to stay home. It’s necessary to take care of yourselves and your relatives, show discipline and responsibility.”
Russia’s comparatively low number of cases given its size and shared border with China raised questions and doubts about the veracity of official statistics. Moscow Mayor Sobyanin told Putin on Tuesday that the low number could reflect insufficient screening rather than the actual scale of the outbreak and said the situation was “serious.”
Kremlin critics have accused the authorities of manipulating coronavirus statistics to ram the constitutional vote through at any cost—allegations that the government has rejected.
Citing the coronavirus, Putin on Wednesday postponed a nationwide vote on proposed constitutional amendments that include a change potentially allowing him to stay in office until 2036. Putin didn’t set a new date for the plebiscite, which was originally scheduled for April 22, saying that it would depend on how the pandemic develops in Russia. The country reported its first two deaths from the virus on Wednesday.
Russian authorities so far have refrained from sweeping lockdowns and closures of businesses, but they will likely change course as the outbreak spreads.
The Russian military on Wednesday launched massive drills to train for deployment across the vast country to help the infected and quarantined areas.
Putin didn’t say if the CCP virus outbreak could prompt the Kremlin to scale down or cancel the May 9 celebrations marking the 75th anniversary of the Allies’ victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. Russia has planned a massive parade in Red Square to mark the nation’s most important holiday to be attended by foreign leaders, including Chinese leader Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said a decision on whether to go ahead with the parade will be made later, depending on how the coronavirus situation develops.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.