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Mongolia loses battle to stay COVID-free

People cry foul at impromptu measures imposed following months with no cases

Mongolians stand in an hourslong line in bitter cold to get tested for COVID-19 in order to leave Ulaanbaatar and return to their native provinces. (Photo by Anand Tumurtogoo)

ULAANBAATAR -- Just a month ago Mongolia was free of COVID-19. Children were in school, public gatherings such as conferences, concerts and sports events were allowed -- it was as if the virus didn't exist. Mongolians had stopped wearing masks as summer came, and social distancing was nonexistent.

All that changed on Nov. 11, when the first domestic transmission of the virus was reported in the Central Asian nation sandwiched between China and Russia. A truck driver who had transported goods from Russia to Mongolia tested positive four days after he left a 21-day quarantine facility. Since then, more than 100 have tested positive in the capital city, Ulaanbaatar, and 300 in rural areas.

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