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Putin approves first steps for Russia to loosen coronavirus lockdown, warns regional governors to tread carefully

Putin approves first steps for Russia to loosen coronavirus lockdown, warns regional governors to tread carefully
Russia will begin to partially lift its Covid-19 lockdown from Monday when restrictions on industrial and construction businesses are removed, Sergey Sobyanin announced during a government meeting chaired by Vladimir Putin.

The Moscow mayor, who also heads the national effort to fight coronavirus, told the video conference that the self-isolation regime in the capital will not be relaxed until the spread of infection there is under control. Moscow, together with its surrounding region, is home to just under two-thirds of Russia’s Covid-19 cases.

However, as the rest of the country has fared better, Putin instructed regional leaders to develop timetables to implement the process, warning them to be careful to avoid risking a second wave of infection. “In some places tough, [but] justified preventive measures will need to be maintained or even supplemented. And in others, perhaps, there will be different levels of severity,” he observed. “You can’t steam ahead with undue haste, because any negligence can bring a rollback and the price of the slightest mistake is the safety, lives, and health of our people.”

The president said the policies of Russian authorities in battling Covid-19 had been successful. “Experience has shown that we have acted absolutely correctly, moreover, many foreign countries have taken the same path, we can see this, and it will be good if they also succeed,” he opined.

Putin revealed that Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin is recovering from his brush with coronavirus. “He's on the mend, Everything is normal,” the president disclosed. “He’s still got a temperature, as often happens in such cases, but he is recovering.” He added that Mishustin is still working and helping with the preparation of all policy decisions, saying “we are in touch with him every day.”

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After Mishustin was infected, First Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Belousov was selected to temporarily replace him. Last Friday, it was announced that the Minister of Construction Vladimir Yakushev and his deputy Dmitry Volkov had both been diagnosed with Covid-19. Culture Minister Olga Lyubimova delivered similar news on Wednesday.

“80,000 people are in hospitals in the country with a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of coronavirus infection, including 1,133 patients on mechanical ventilation, four of them children,” Health Minister Mikhail Murashko told Putin. He added that men are more vulnerable than women to its effects.

Sobyanin was encouraged by the stabilization in the numbers seeking critical care. “For two weeks now, the amount of patients who require placement in a hospital has not increased. It is approximately at the same level,” he informed the meeting.

“I believe that plans to open a significant number of enterprises, primarily industrial and in the construction sector, are absolutely justified,” he added, noting that Putin had approved the plan. However, he warned that the service sector will remain frozen for the foreseeable future.

Sobyanin cautioned that the likes of hairdressers and beauty salons – where people come into contact with each other – could trigger a new wave of infections. “So far, the situation means it’s not possible to restore services, everyday life, and so on,” he insisted.

Anna Popova of Rospotrebnadzor, the state health watchdog, presented a three point plan for removing the wider lockdown, in stages. The time scale for the easing will depend on local circumstances and be up to regional governors and their health officials, she explained.

1. Outdoor sports will be allowed; small shops and services can open.

2. Walking on the street with family members will be permitted, large-scale trade operations and some educational organizations will be opened.

3. Parks and squares will be made available again subject to social distancing rules; all educational institutions, hotels, and catering establishments will open.

Also on rt.com Russian Prime Minister Mishustin tests positive for coronavirus as national total tops 100,000 cases

Belousov warned that Russia’s economic health is also beginning to noticeably suffer. “We are now entering a more difficult period from the point of view of the economy,” he noted, admitting that the number of small businesses applying for ‘salary loans’ to pay their workers has exceeded the government's expectations.

Minister for Labor Anton Kotyakov told his colleagues that 735,000 Russians had joined the unemployment register in the past two months, bringing the national total to 1.2 million out of work. Yet, this doesn’t tell the full story as many Russians earn their living in the informal economy, which amounts to over 30 percent of GDP according to the IMF, and their status isn’t recorded in official statistics. Kotyakov has previously warned that the economic recession caused by Covid-19 could leave between five and six million Russians unemployed, or seven to eight percent of the workforce. Such figures were last seen a decade ago, following the Great Financial Crash.

As of Wednesday evening, Russia has reported over 166,000 coronavirus infections, with 1,537 deaths. The Moscow area has accounted for around 92,000 of the cases, and was home to over 1,000 of the deceased. Russia has carried out over 4,633,731 tests. A higher per capita rate (31,752) than Germany (30,400), Britain (20,385) or the United States (23,522).

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