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  • Writer's pictureMongolia Weekly

Many still stranded abroad by the pandemic

Although daily life in Mongolia has gradually returned to resembling that of pre-COVID-19 conditions (see chart further below), thousands of citizens stranded abroad still can't return to the country because of flight bans and restricted borders since March.

Those who stranded abroad have been organizing multiple sit-ins and pickets in many places, including at Inchon airport (on the picture), Budapest, Washington D.C., and London. They demanded open borders and more frequent flights with banners saying "we're not a virus" and "freedom to enter the home country."

Officials estimate they brought back around 13,000 citizens since coronavirus restrictions. But an additional 10,000 from Asia, Europe and the US have requested to return this summer. Their number is growing rapidly.

Evacuation flights have been very limited while capacity of state-mandated isolation facilities can serve only around 3,000 during a 21-day quarantine. Plus, health officials lack enough testing kits and medical supplies.

Additionally, officials' red tape doesn't make life easier. In July, a Mongolian student trying to cross by land from Russia was denied entry to her home country. She had to wait 48 hours at the border seeking official permission to enter.

As the government is struggling to manage and bring back its citizens the risk of local transmission is not going away. WHO warned October and November could witness local outbreak as the flue season begins. If a community transmission is detected strict lockdown measures will likely to be implemented. This will likely stop evacuation flights further making the situation of stranded nationals even worse.

Prime Minister Khurelsukh said back in May that borders would be shut until the vaccine was available. And the government is holding that line by extending "high alert"emergency until the end of August. It is not clear whether the government will relax border restrictions and resume flights. A government spokesman has also emphasized that Mongolia never shut its borders to its citizens.

Source: Google mobility report (baseline is Jan-Feb and drop in workplaces reflect summer vacation time)


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