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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Plane Is Turned Back Over SARS

A Chinese airliner carrying about 100 passengers was ordered back to China after landing in the far eastern city of Khabarovsk on Sunday, three days after Russian aviation officials told airlines and cargo carriers to suspend reservations on flights to China, Hong Kong and Taiwan in connection to SARS.

Meanwhile, 80 people were freed from a 10-day quarantine in a hotel in Blagoveshchensk near the Chinese border Friday after doctors said none had the deadly SARS virus.

Russia has no confirmed cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome, which has killed more than 500 people worldwide.

The State Civil Aviation Service said Thursday that it had told carriers to be prepared for a complete stop to all flights to the area.

The aviation authority's press service said no new passenger tickets or cargo containers on flights to mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan could be sold. For now, however, those already holding tickets and cargo already arranged for transfer will be able to fly, it said.

A complete cancelation of flights would require an order by the chief epidemiologist, Deputy Health Minister Gennady Onishchenko, and Cabinet approval, the press service said.

But national carrier Aeroflot on Thursday continued accepting bookings for flights to those destinations, saying it had agreed with the civil aviation authority that the checks it was conducting on boarding passengers were rigorous enough to continue flying.

Khabarovsk officials, however, banned all air travel between their region and SARS-stricken Southeast Asia last week. That prompted the decision Sunday to force the China Northern Airlines plane to return to Harbin in China, RIA-Novosti reported.

In Blagoveshchensk, meanwhile, 65 Chinese and 15 Russians who had found themselves in forced isolation after an ambulance carried away a 25-year-old guest, Denis Soinikov, more than a week earlier were allowed to leave the Zarya hotel Friday night.

The hotel administrator said there was no stampede toward the door.

"Nobody packed their bags and ran. It is all quiet," she said by telephone. "But there have been no new bookings either."

She declined to comment on what the atmosphere inside was like during the 10-day isolation, but Russian television said canteen attendants had refused to serve meals to the Chinese.

Soinikov remains in a local hospital in grave condition. Officials say he displays typical SARS symptoms, but laboratory tests have so far failed to isolate the virus.

(AP, Reuters, AFP)