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Russian Covid-19 cases exceed 21,000 after Putin warns country faces 'extraordinary crisis'

Russian Covid-19 cases exceed 21,000 after Putin warns country faces 'extraordinary crisis'
The day after President Vladimir Putin told Russians that the next few weeks will be "decisive" in the battle with coronavirus, the country has posted a new daily record rise in infections, with 2,774 new cases discovered.

Over two-thirds (1,949) were found in Moscow and its surrounding region, with others dotted around the country. The national total now stands at 21,102.

Worryingly, the remote northern Komi Republic is Russia's fourth most affected region overall. The resource-rich territory recorded 97 fresh Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing its tally to 305, with three dead.  

Twenty-two new deaths have been announced, 18 of them in the Moscow area, the youngest a 29-year-old girl who had Down Syndrome. The nationwide toll is 170, with 119 of the deceased from the capital and its environs. Saint Petersburg has recorded four fatal cases. 

On Monday, during a meeting with officials, via video link, Putin said Russia's situation was "changing every day and unfortunately not for the better." He warned of the need to prepare for "complex and extraordinary" circumstances as infections spread. 

"We have a lot of problems," the President said. "We don't have anything special to brag about, and we certainly must not relax." Putin added that he was prepared to call in the military to help stretched medical services, if needed. Meanwhile, Tatiana Golikova, the deputy prime minister in charge of handling the national coronavirus response, said it was “unpleasant” to see the daily figures rise.

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The age breakdown in Moscow also flies in the face of the perception that younger people are somehow resistant to coronavirus. 49.5% of those known to be infected in the capital are under 45, with only 14% over 66. 

Health officials believe Russia won't reach the peak of the outbreak until the end of April. Most of the country is in some form of strict partial-lockdown, with the severity of restrictions depending on local circumstances. From Wednesday, measures will be tightened in Moscow with electronic passes introduced for the purpose of moving around the city by either public or private transport. On the other hand, in the Far Eastern Primorye region, local authorities have allowed dozens of schools to reopen.

Fewer chances are been taken in the capital where, over the weekend, 92 shops were fined for breaching 'social distancing' regulations. The enterprises failed to apply "special markings to avoid potentially dangerous contacts between customers," according to Alexei Nemeryuk, head of the Moscow department of trade and services. 

Putin has implemented a nationwide "paid holiday" until the end of April to encourage Russians to stay at home. The scheme doesn't apply to essential workers and those who can carry out their duties from home. 

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Around the country, restaurants, bars, shopping malls, cinemas, gyms, and other non-essential public places remain closed. 

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