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Coronavirus identified near Kourou, Arianspace personnel leave space center

The first source also said that Arianspace officials had not met with Russian specialists to discuss the postponement of the Soyuz-ST launch

MOSCOW, March 7. /TASS/. The personnel of the French company Arianespace, the operator of the Kourou space center in French Guiana, has left the facility after several cases of the new coronavirus-related disease have been identified in a community nearby, two sources in the space rocket industry have told TASS.

"Almost all personnel of the French company Arianespace have left the Kourou Space Center after coronavirus cases have been identified among Asian tourists in a community nearby," one source said.

Another source confirmed this. He told TASS that "Russia’s team of about 300 specialists is going to return to Russia on Monday after all procedures concerning the postponement of the Soyuz-ST rocket carrying the United Arab Emirates’ satellite Falcon Eye 2 satellite have been completed."

The first source added that Arianspace officials had not met with Russian specialists to discuss the postponement of the Soyuz-ST launch, but "merely confined themselves to a written notification the launch is to be postponed."

An e-mail request and TASS phone calls to an Arianspace spokesperson remained unanswered. The company’s office replied that officials empowered to make a comment were unavailable and the moment.

Job to be done by Russian specialists

According to the second source, there were no plans to quarantine the Russian specialists upon their return home, because "they have not contacted any local residents or tourists or any other potentially infected persons."

On Saturday and Sunday (March 7-8) Roscosmos personnel would remove the Soyuz-ST rocket from the launch pad, bring it to the assembly hangar and take apart. The satellite and booster will be detached from the rocket.

Coronavirus situation

The first outbreak of the coronavirus-related disease was registered in China’s city of Wuhan at the end of last December. The World Health Organization declared it an epidemic with multiple foci and an international emergency. Apart from China the effects of the epidemic have been felt most strongly in South Korea, Iran and Italy. Patients diagnosed with the coronavirus have been identified in more than 80 countries, including Russia. In China, which is the hardest-hit by the disease, the virus has killed 3,000, while 53,500 have recovered and a total of 80,500 are known to have contracted the virus as of March 6. The World Health Organization says that as of March 5 the virus has infected nearly 15,000 outside China; 267 of them died.