By Tom Balmforth and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Moscow will deport 88 foreign nationals for allegedly violating quarantine measures imposed on them as a precaution against the coronavirus, the RIA news agency cited Moscow’s deputy mayor as saying on Friday.

Russia has quarantined hundreds of people to prevent the spread of the epidemic, which started in China late last year, carrying out raids on potential carriers of the virus and using facial recognition technology to enforce quarantine measures.

“During raids, 88 people who violated their isolation conditions were identified. They are foreign citizens who are due to be deported,” RIA quoted deputy mayor Anastasia Rakova as saying.

She did not say where the foreigners were from, how they would be deported or what kind of isolation measures they had been put under.

But she said daily raids were being conducted in crowded places, at the residences of Chinese citizens and those of Russians and foreigners who flew to Moscow from China before full controls were imposed at the border.

Russia has barred many categories of Chinese national from entering the country and suspended many flights between the countries except for some that are routed through a separate terminal at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.

“Police officers are conducting raids in hospitals, hostels, private apartments and also in the metro and on public transport,” Rakova was quoted as saying.

China’s embassy in Russia has demanded an end to what it said are discriminatory anti-coronavirus measures against Chinese nationals, saying they are damaging relations and alarming Chinese residents of the Russian capital.

On Thursday, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin asked China to respect the measures being taken and urged the Chinese embassy to encourage its citizens in Moscow to comply with the quarantine measures.

China is Russia’s biggest trade partner and, although the two countries share one of the world’s longest borders, Russia has reported relatively few confirmed coronavirus cases on its territory.

Three Russian nationals are receiving treatment in Russia after they contracted the virus on a cruise ship in Japan, authorities have said. Two Chinese nationals were earlier taken to hospital in Russia with the virus, but have since recovered.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Alison Williams and Timothy Heritage)