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Meeting on sanitary and epidemiological situation and readiness of healthcare system for autumn and winter

July 29, 2020

The President held a meeting, via videoconference, on the sanitary and epidemiological situation and readiness of the healthcare system for the autumn and winter period.

The meeting was attended by Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Anton Vaino, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, Deputy Prime Minister and Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District Yury Trutnev, Minister of Labour and Social Protection Anton Kotyakov, Minister of Education Sergei Kravtsov, Minister of Culture Olga Lyubimova, Healthcare Minister Mikhail Murashko, Minister of Science and Higher Education Valery Falkov, presidential plenipotentiary envoys to the Northwestern, Volga, Siberian, Southern, North Caucasus and Central federal districts, Head of the Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor) and Chief State Sanitary Physician of the Russian Federation Anna Popova, Head of the Federal Medical-Biological Agency Veronika Skvortsova, First Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Sergei Tsyb, Deputy Minister of Finance Pavel Kadochnikov, and senior officials of the Russian regions.

* * *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues,

We are meeting today in this expanded format to discuss the sanitary and epidemiological situation in the Russian Federation and readiness of our healthcare system for the autumn and winter period.

We usually prepare our energy sector for the autumn and winter period, doing maintenance work and the like. But in the current circumstances we also need to discuss our preparations for the upcoming period in terms of medicine.

We have been prioritising healthcare matters over a period of the past few months. I would like to note that the entire system of medical care functioned in a well-organised manner during the pandemic. We have considerably expanded its capabilities. This is an established fact. And, of course, the selfless efforts and courage of medical personnel, doubtless, played a major, colossal role in the fight against the coronavirus threat and made it possible to save lives and protect the health of hundreds of thousands of Russian citizens.

Of course, there have been some setbacks and problems, just like everywhere else. But, as I have already mentioned, we have, on the whole, managed to cope with the unprecedented challenge and to repel the onslaught of this pandemic. The number of new coronavirus cases has been decreasing gradually in Russia throughout June and July. According to up-to-date reports, the number of new cases is almost twice less than during the peak time in May.

At the same time, I would like to say right away that the situation remains complicated and can develop in any direction, so to say. This is the reason why we have all gathered here. This is why there are no reasons for complacency, for relaxing and forgetting about the recommendations of doctors. I am now addressing the officials and all Russian citizens, all the more so, as far from all the Russian regions have managed to stabilise the situation and reduce the number of new cases. The situation remains complicated in some of the Russian regions.

We will dwell upon this matter separately at the meeting. We will discuss in detail what else federal agencies, regional and local authorities must do to improve the situation.

I would like to say once again that the situation countrywide is stabilising. The regions are gradually emerging from the regime of forced restrictions. Business activity is resuming, production is being relaunched, catering companies and shopping centres are reopening. Of course, we should consistently continue doing this. But our decisions must be, just as before, balanced, careful and accurate, as well as based on expert recommendations, because undue haste is fraught with a new growth of the coronavirus cases, as has been the case in some of the regions.

In these circumstances we must maintain and increase the capacity of the national healthcare system.

As I mentioned, we are approaching the coming autumn and winter season, which is the common cold, flu and acute respiratory viral infection season throughout many places in the world, including in Russia, considering its natural weather conditions. In addition to this, experts believe that the spread of COVID-19 can increase.

We must be proactive and take all these risks into account, each of them separately as well as in any possible combination, so that when the load on our outpatient clinics and hospitals increases they are able to work steadily and our people receive quality medical assistance, both emergency aid and elective care, in full, without fail.

Of course, we must also do everything in our power, taking preventive and proactive measures to avoid the reintroduction of restrictions, in particular large-scale ones, so that our schools, kindergartens, universities, enterprises and establishments can work safely in the normal course to which people are accustomed. I suggest that we now discuss all of these subjects in detail.


Vladimir Putin: Of course, colleagues, there aremany questions. We have discussed some of them, or rather, the most important ones.

I would like to thank you for your constructive efforts. We will definitely take into account the practical proposals that have been made today.

I would like to point out once again that our main goal is to protect the life and health of our people and the safety of our families. All bodies of power and authorities at all levels must make their plans in accordance with this logic.

I would like you to remember that there are no secondary matters which we can put off for later. Every sector and every area of our work to protect the health of our people is important and calls for our utmost attention and concentration of resources.

In conclusion of this meeting, I would like to mention several priority measures.

I agree that we must focus on preventive measures now, first of all seasonal flu vaccination.

Last year, over a half of Russian citizens received flu shots, as was said today. This protected millions of people from the disease and reduced the severity of illness for many others. Today we have been informed about the implementation of the national flu vaccination plan this year. There is no doubt that it must be implemented in full and that the necessary resources must be allocated for this purpose.

On the other hand, I would like to make a very important point. Getting a flu shot or not is a personal decision of each individual. But it also involves huge responsibility for your health and the health of your near and dear ones, especially the responsibility of parents for the health of their children.

We must definitely respect the voluntary principle in this context. However, it is all the more important to carry out a wise, comprehensible and clear campaign to encourage the people to get the vaccine. I would like to stress that this is a common task for all levels of power. I also hope that volunteer and public organisations will become actively involved.

We must enlighten the people about the importance of flu and ARVI vaccines, and tell them where and when they can get free vaccines, by appointment and, of course, without any queues. The process must be convenient for the people, especially for the elderly and parents with children.

Second, it is necessary to replenish and stock up for the future a reserve of essential medical equipment, antiseptics, masks and the like. Both medical facilities and pharmacies must have enough of these items that must be fully available throughout the country.

In addition to this, both federal and regional medical facilities must keep a reserve of beds for coronavirus patients. Mr Sobyanin has just spoken about this as regards Moscow. This should be the same in all regions, especially in those where the epidemiological situation remains complicated.

It is also necessary to be able to quickly provide such reserve beds just in case patients with flu and respiratory complications need them.

Furthermore, I would like to ask the Government, in cooperation with domestic pharmaceutical companies, to continuously monitor the reliability of medical supplies to our domestic market, including the medication that has proved effective in treating the coronavirus cases. We already have this and the industrial production has generally been launched. Now the job is to produce this medicine in the required amounts.

The next point is the development of a vaccine against the coronavirus. This is a very important goal. As we see, our research institutions have made great progress in this field. This was not mentioned here but I am aware that a lot more has been done than meets the eye and we read in the media. Let me recall that the key requirements to a vaccine are its proved effectiveness and safety. Therefore, it is necessary to act with the utmost care, observing all the requirements and rules in this complicated area. We must have absolute confidence in the vaccine. We will proceed from this principle in making the decisions on coronavirus vaccinations.

It is necessary to expand the use of modern electronic services in healthcare and the practice of remote doctor appointments, including through the state and municipal services website. All technicalities must be sorted out in a timely manner, and all mechanisms must be fine-tuned.

Such prompt interaction with medical specialists is especially important during the flu and cold season. Patients, including the ones with chronic diseases, should be able to receive advice and recommendations remotely so that, if there is no need for it, they will not have to go to a polyclinic, where they would run an objectively higher risk of catching a seasonal infection. However, when there is need to do so the patient should, of course, see a doctor.

I would like to draw the attention of the Government and our colleagues in the regions to the following: information and introduction of digital solutions is the most important area if we want to improve the quality of our healthcare. We talked about this many times, and it figures prominently in our programme, including the development of primary care. Upgrading the entire primary care is an extremely important area. By the way, a lot has already been accomplished here. But, as you may be aware, there are also plenty of unresolved problems.

So, we must and will constantly deal with these issues, as well as with the development of the entire healthcare system. Please keep this in mind, including when planning the federal budget for the coming year. This is critically important. If we fail to do something in time, you are well aware of this, we will have to seek for resources later. So, when identifying priorities, it is necessary to keep in mind that the things we discussed today certainly constitute such a priority.

I want to thank you all and wish you every success. I hope that our meeting today will not be in vain, and that we, understanding our responsibility, will do everything in a timely manner and work efficiently and as a team and achieve a good team result in the interest of the citizens of our country.

I want to thank all the participants.

July 29, 2020