Russia must prepare for worst-case coronavirus scenario: Putin

Russian president orders officials to hire more staff to deal with pandemic as daily cases rise by record 2,558.

Vehicles drive near the U.S. embassy and spray disinfectant while sanitizing a road to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Moscow, Russia April 12, 2020. Andrey Nikerichev/Mosc
Vehicles spray disinfectant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease in Moscow [Andrey Nikerichev/Moscow News Agency/Reuters]

The coronavirus situation is getting worse in Russia, President Vladimir Putin acknowledged on Monday, adding that the Defence Ministry’s resources, such as assistance by military medical staff, would be used to tackle the crisis if needed.

Putin, who was speaking at a meeting with senior officials broadcast on state television, said the situation was constantly changing and that the next few weeks would prove decisive in its battle to halt the contagion.

He said preparations must anticipate “any possible scenarios, including the most difficult and extraordinary”.

Putin ordered officials to recruit additional personnel from universities and medical schools.

Russia on Monday reported a record 2,558 daily rise in coronavirus cases. At least 148 people have died with the virus.

Moscow, which is tightening lockdown measures with mandatory passes for travelling around the city, accounted for about two-thirds of all cases.

Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova reported to Putin that Russia had 40,000 hospital beds for COVID-19 patients and plans to increase the number to 95,000. She said infections have been growing steadily by 16 percent to 18 percent a day. 

Another 140,000 people throughout the country were under medical observation on Monday morning on suspicion that they could have contracted the novel coronavirus, a federal monitoring service reported. 

Most of Russia’s regions have followed Moscow’s lead and imposed similar measures, advising residents to stay home unless absolutely necessary.

Putin reiterated support for the lockdown quarantine measures on Monday as justified. He said last week that there is “no other choice” than self-isolation to prevent the spread of the disease.

The president has been working remotely, his spokesman announced earlier this month, after a doctor with whom Putin had recently shaken hands tested positive for the virus.