27 Feb 2020 13:16

Kazakhstan not currently planning to evacuate its citizens from S. Korea over coronavirus - Kazakh Foreign Ministry

NUR-SULTAN. Feb 27 (Interfax) - Kazakhstan has no immediate plans to pull its citizens out of South Korea due to the spread of coronavirus; however, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry has recommended that they return to Kazakhstan before air traffic with South Korea is limited, Kazakh Foreign Ministry spokesperson Aibek Smadiyarov said.

"Our embassy has taken a series of measures to inform citizens about the coronavirus situation in South Korea. A response center is operating. A messaging service has opened a round-the-clock hotline. Citizens are being registered with the consulate on a daily basis. The number of people infected and the number of deaths is growing. Therefore, one must be as careful as possible. Traffic with South Korea is not being halted, for now. It's too early to speak of any evacuation. We'll keep watching," Smadiyarov said at a press briefing in the Kazakh capital on Thursday.

At present, there are more than 35,000 Kazakh citizens in South Korea, he said. Of them, some 13,000 are there illegally.

"A mere 848 people are registered with the consulate at our embassy. Can you imagine the real scale? In other words, the irresponsibility of a large number of our citizens is playing against them, because in the event of emergencies, how will we look for them if we even don't know where they are in the country?" Smadiyarov said.

The ministry advised Kazakh citizens to contact the embassy's consular department and register with it.

"The number of flights to South Korea will begin to be limited starting on March 1. Therefore, we recommend that our citizens return home before these restrictions are introduced," Smadiyarov said, adding that once these measures are in place, Kazakh citizens who wish to return home might encounter difficulties.

Chief Kazakh public health official Zhandarbek Bekshin said on Wednesday that starting on March 1, Kazakhstan could reduce the number of flights to South Korea from nine to three a week.

According to the latest reports, 1,595 cases of Covid-19 coronavirus and 12 deaths from it have been confirmed in South Korea.