The Russian Prime Minister, the man in charge of Russia’s response to the pandemic, says he has tested positive for the virus.
After the announcement, Mikhail Mishustin called on Russians to treat the threat of infection seriously:
“We have May holidays coming up. I ask you to stay at home and respect all necessary restrictions. I’m sure we will be able to defeat this infection together and return to normal life.”
The Prime Minister told President Vladimir Putin about the positive test on Thursday evening and said he would stay in touch on important policy questions. The President congratulated Mishustin on his work so far and wished him a swift recovery.
“What happened to you, could happen to anyone,” Putin said. “Along with other Cabinet members and colleagues from the presidential office, you have undoubtedly been in the zone of high risk.”
“No matter how you limit contacts, it’s impossible to avoid communication with people while drafting decisions,” Putin said.
The Prime Minister held a cabinet meeting via video link on Thursday and he last saw Vladimir Putin in person on the 24 of March.
Officials are concerned other members of the cabinet may have been infected.
But Mishustin’s spokesman, Boris Belyakov, said the prime minister mostly relied on video calls to communicate during the pandemic and had direct contact with a very narrow circle of people. They have now self-isolated and will be tested for the coronavirus.
COVID-19 in Russia
In Russia, more than 100,000 people are now infected and over a thousand have died of COVID-19. The daily number of infections spiked on Thursday with 7,099 new cases reported.
The Kremlin insists the situation is under control and that sharp increases can be expected as the virus spreads through Russia.
But there are reports that hospitals are not ready and that Russians are not sufficiently concerned by the risk of infection.
And the Mayor of Moscow says he doesn’t think the Russian capital is close to overcoming the spread of coronavirus.
Moscow accounts for half of Russia’s infections and on Thursday health authorities recorded nearly 3,100 new cases in the city.
“We’re not even halfway, in my opinion; at best we have passed we are a quarter of the way (in the outbreak),” Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said.
Moscow quickly built one hospital to handle coronavirus cases but the Mayor said the city needs more, he suggested that shopping malls and sports venues could be transformed into treatment facilities.
This Friday, May holidays are starting and usually many Russians visit their dachas or country homes. Residents from Moscow and St Petersburg are allowed to go but many restrictions remain in place.
Most people have to stay at home and can only go out to visit the pharmacy and buy food. Many are working from home with only vital businesses allowed to stay open.
Earlier this week, President Putin extended restrictions to the 11 May and he told his citizens they would have to learn to live with the restrictions, at least for a while.
“The threat of the illness won’t disappear everywhere at once, so we can’t talk about lifting restrictions simultaneously. It’s unacceptable,” Putin said in a televised address on Tuesday.