Russian virus cases top 32,000, Putin warns of ‘very high’ risks

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russia said yesterday it had recorded 32,008 coronavirus cases, including a record 4,070 in the last 24 hours, as President Vladimir Putin warned of “very high” risks, particularly in the ill-equipped provinces.

Official figures showed more than half of the new cases were registered in Moscow and the surrounding region. So far 273 deaths have been recorded in Russia, including 41 in the last 24 hours.

Speaking during a televised video-conference with regional governors, Putin said that “the risks surrounding the epidemic’s spread are still very high, not just in Moscow but in many other Russian regions.”

Moscow’s mayor Sergei Sobyanin on Friday reported the completion of a 500-bed hospital built within weeks, which will start admitting patients on Monday.

But Putin said every region must be equally prepared, even as several governors complained of a lack of medical equipment and specialist staff.

People make their way to work in Moscow during a strict lockdown in Russia yesterday. PHOTO: AFP

Vladimir region governor Vladimir Sipyagin said his region of 1.36 million only has 71 ventilators and half the needed resuscitation experts. To this Putin responded that governors “are sitting there in order to overcome challenges”.

Moscow, Europe’s largest city with some 12 million inhabitants, has been under lockdown since the end of March, but officials have complained that many residents are flouting confinement rules.

Deputy mayor Anastasia Rakova warned the city “will face difficult weeks” ahead.

“The peak in morbidity should arrive in the next two to three weeks,” she said in a video released on social media.

Under confinement rules that Muscovites have to observe until at least May 1, they are only allowed to leave their homes to go to work, walk their dogs, take out trash or visit their nearest shop.

This week, city authorities tightened the lockdown by introducing a digital permit system, requiring that anyone travelling by car or public transport obtain a pass.