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23 Mar, 2020 11:00

Moscow acted effectively on Covid-19 long before it was classed as 'pandemic' – Russian WHO bureau chief to RT

Moscow acted effectively on Covid-19 long before it was classed as 'pandemic' – Russian WHO bureau chief to RT

Russia's approach to the spread of Covid-19 has been quite effective, partially because it began taking preventive measures long before the World Health Organization labeled it a pandemic, the WHO’s chief in Moscow has told RT.

“Russia started with the measures very early, before the famous ‘pandemic’ word was spelled out by [WHO] Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus on March 11," said Dr Melita Vujnovic.

“The Russian government has been using a combined approach recommended by the WHO and constant risk assessment,” she told RT. That includes travel restrictions, placing arriving individuals into quarantine, extensive multi-tier testing to track and cut infection chains, and encouragement of social distancing to curb transmissions.

Vujnovic added that these measures were taken before the WHO designated coronavirus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) in late January.

Having worked closely with the Russian health authorities, Vujnovic is pretty certain that Russia’s relatively low number of coronavirus cases is accurate. As of Monday, there are 438 patients diagnosed with Covid-19 in the country, with 71 new cases identified since Sunday. One virus carrier died in Russia last week, due to blood clot. She had a range of pre-existing conditions.  

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Some have claimed the infection rate is under-reported in Russia or even that the government must be fiddling with the numbers to hide the true grim picture. Vujnovic said there was no evidence this was the case.

“Pneumonias, where [the] causative agent has not been conclusive are all tested for coronavirus as well. If we had a massive infection, we would see also deaths rising and incidents rising,” she said. “There is no significant difference” to previous years.

“We don’t exclude the possibility that there are some missed cases that might start a chain of infection," she explained. "That is why there is a massive information campaign going on by the government and the WHO” to explain the risks of the coronavirus and how to mitigate it through social distancing and proper personal hygiene.

Also on rt.com Moscow mayor announces first Russian coronavirus death: autopsy later reveals it was blood clot

There are over 14,600 confirmed Covid-19 deaths in the world, according to a Reuters tally. Italy, where the death toll stands at 5,467, has by far the most fatalities, with China, Iran and Spain hit hard, too.

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