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Putin: coronavirus situation in Russia not changing for better

Russian military medics may become involved in the fight against the novel coronavirus on the territory of Russia, the Russian president informed

NOVO-OGARYOVO, April 13. /TASS/. The situation with the coronavirus infection in Russia is not changing for the better, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday at an online meeting on the sanitary and epidemiological situation in the country.

"We see that the situation is changing every day and, unfortunately, the number of infected people is increasing. There is an increasingly large number of cases with the severe form of the disease, precisely the severe form," the Russian leader said.

Putin demanded that "updated information be provided on the measures that are being taken to fight the coronavirus epidemic."

In the Russian president’s estimate, "the coming weeks will largely be decisive." "And, therefore, all our actions, bearing in mind local preventive measures and the operation of the entire healthcare system, should be optimally structured, with ample reserve, as they say, and taking all factors into account," Putin said.

The Russian leader added that enhanced risk territories included Moscow, the Moscow Region and large cities, including those with a population of over one million characterized by a large concentration of people and a high population density. Putin said he intended to hear a report on measures being taken nationwide and in specific regions.

The coronavirus outbreak has not reached its peak in Russia yet, President Vladimir Putin lamented. "Experts say that the epidemic has not reached its peak here, even in Moscow," he pointed out. "This is why I believe that the measures the city’s authorities have been taking are reasonable," Putin added.

The president emphasized the need to make sure that "all technical and administrative issues are addressed and everything works well so that people don’t have to face additional problems."

He also said that compared to other countries, "the situation in Russia looks better, at least for now." "This became possible through an effective and well-organized healthcare system and not just because we were hit by the virus later than others," Putin said, adding that medical workers in Russia were well-trained. At the same time, he admitted that as far as the fight against the coronavirus was concerned, "there are many problems and we have little to boast about, this is no time to relax."

The president has called for taking into account all scenarios of coronavirus situation development, even the worst ones. "It is necessary to consider all scenarios of the situation’s development, even the most difficult and extraordinary ones, to be flexible in adjusting the strategy and tactic of our actions, first of all in what concerns medical assistance to people," he stated.

He underscored that the entire healthcare system "must function as a consolidated mechanism" with strict coordination between the federal government and regional agencies, as well as between the Ministry of Health, the Federal Medical Biological Agency and other departments and private clinics. "The government has all the competences to coordinate this work," he added. 

"Now we must efficiently use all our resources, we must think through all the details and options, distribute the load on hospitals and clinics and reserve the possibilities for maneuvering depending on the situation in concrete regions," Putin said, putting emphasis on rechannelling means of protection, reserves of lung ventilators, medicines and teams of medics "exactly to those regions and medical establishments, where they are needed most of all at the given point in time."

Russia has been making proactive efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus, Vladimir Putin noted. "In order to continue acting proactively — and we have been successful in this so far though the situation is not improving — we need a reliable expert analysis," he said.

Putin noted that expert predictions of the situation are necessary. "Not just short-term and long-term [predictions], but also those for the period of the next three, seven, ten days," the president said. He called on the government "to make and update these predictions constantly depending on the current situation." "Report to me daily," Putin stressed.

Involving military medics

Russian military medics may become involved in the fight against the novel coronavirus on the territory of Russia, President Vladimir Putin informed. "Of course, we need to use their experience and to keep in mind that we can tap all resources, namely the resources of the Russian Defense Ministry, if necessary [to combat the coronavirus]," Putin said.

The Russian leader recalled that Russian military officers are already working hard abroad to help combat the virus. Putin stressed that they had accumulated significant experience in fighting this epidemic under difficult conditions.

"This is just a small share of the Russian Defense Ministry’s capacity," the president said. "Their main resources are on standby, we need to keep this in mind." He added that the Russian Defense Ministry had already begun construction of new medical facilities to combat infectious diseases in many Russian regions, which can be used in the long-term.

Shortage of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers

An integrated federal register of equipment and drugs used in treating coronavirus infected people and personal protective equipment for healthcare workers can be created in Russia, Vladimir Putin said.

Personal protective equipment for medical specialists is not always sufficient now and "extra measures are needed to close out all these shortages," Putin indicated. "In particular, I suggest thinking of centralized procurement and development of a common federal reserve of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers along with equipment and pharmaceuticals used in coronavirus infection treatment, so that it is possible to help regions and medical institutions promptly through the use of such reserve," the head of state proposed.

The president asked medical services to monitor the delivery of plans on increase in the production of goods required to control the coronavirus.

"Clearly that when epidemics of such kind and such scale occur, the industry is not ready for them in advance but we have a relevant plan to ramp up production, and I request medical services to respond in the most attentive manner to execution of these production increase plans," Putin added.

In late December 2019, Chinese officials notified the World Health Organization (WHO) about the outbreak of a previously unknown pneumonia in the city of Wuhan, in central China. Since then, cases of the novel coronavirus — named COVID-19 by the WHO — have been reported in every corner of the globe, including Russia.

On March 11, 2020, the WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. According to the latest statistics, over 1,800,000 people have been infected worldwide and more than 114,000 deaths have been reported. In addition, so far, over 428,000 individuals have recovered from the illness across the globe.

To date, a total of 18,328 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Russia, with 1,470 patients having recovered from the virus. Russia’s latest data indicates 148 fatalities nationwide. Earlier, the Russian government set up an Internet hotline to keep the public updated on the coronavirus situation.