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Meeting with Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin

May 27, 2020, Novo-Ogaryovo, Moscow Region

The President held a videoconference with Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin to discuss the sanitary and epidemiological situation in Moscow, the results of the gradual lifting of coronavirus restrictions and cooperation between the federal and Moscow authorities during preparations for the Victory Parade on June 24.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, Mr Sobyanin.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin: Good afternoon, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: We agreed to discuss the development of the epidemiological situation in Moscow and the results of the gradual lifting of preventive restrictions, including the operation of the manufacturing and construction industries, services, trade and other vital sectors of the Moscow economy where millions of people are working. I would like to know how the gradual lifting of the restrictions, that is, the first phase, has affected the sanitary and epidemiological situation in the capital.

I also propose discussing cooperation between the federal and Moscow authorities to prepare for the June 24 parade to mark the Victory in the Great Patriotic War.

I would also like to know your views and proposals on the subsequent gradual easing of the self-isolation restrictions.

In general, I would like to hear your perspective on the socioeconomic situation in the capital. We hold regular discussions on this issue, but doing so again is extremely important given the current circumstances.

Mr Sobyanin, go ahead.

Sergei Sobyanin: Thank you, Mr President.

Thank you for your close attention to the socioeconomic developments in Moscow, especially amid the pandemic when the regional and local authorities, businesses and the people must align their efforts. Such coordination is extremely important.

I would like to say that we had our doubts, even fears, when discussing with you the reopening of the manufacturing and construction industries, not knowing how this could impact the current situation. After all, the issue concerns hundreds of thousands of people who would return to their jobs.

Nearly all manufacturing facilities resumed operation in Moscow on May 12. The number of working enterprises increased from 366 on May 12 to over 700 today; they make up the backbone of the Moscow economy. Some 150 construction projects never stopped, including metro, railway and medical construction projects. Over a thousand construction projects have resumed now, which means that construction workers have returned to all construction sites, even if not in full capacity. They are building kindergartens, schools, outpatient clinics, housing, office premises, transport facilities and the like.

At the same time, we saw that the number of people using municipal transport and private cars was rapidly increasing. The daily traffic in Moscow has increased by nearly one million people. In other words, the reopening of these companies has increased interaction, transport and the movement of people around the city.

Of course, there was the risk that the epidemic in this country would take a turn for the worse.

To minimise and compensate for these risks, we imposed even stricter requirements for employers and transportation by adopting a mandatory mask and gloves policy: people must wear masks and gloves on public transit and in shops.

Clearly, such requirements are seldom welcome, but the result is as follows. On the one hand, by restarting a huge number of enterprises and increasing the passenger flow, and on the other hand, by putting in place stricter requirements for people and enterprises, we have managed to achieve, to my mind, very good results. From May 12 to the present day the number of seriously ill hospitalised patients not only stopped growing, but went down by 40 percent, which is a sure indicator, because it would have become clear if something was wrong: then the number of patients would have surged.

The number of COVID pneumonia cases detected by our CT imaging centres – such large-scale work is underway – also dropped by 40 percent.

The number of newly diagnosed COVID-19 patients has declined by more than 40 percent. Actually, today we had the lowest number – 2,140 people – whereas earlier, at the peak, we diagnosed over 6,000 such patients.

All this allows us to say that the measures taken after May 12 (opening industrial enterprises and construction sites and a number of other measures) alongside strict sanitary standards allowed us to not only stabilise the situation, but also to improve it considerably. And today we can speak about the next steps in overcoming this crisis.

What do we propose? We propose drafting appropriate regulatory documents by June 1 and releasing them in the next day or two on opening food and non-food retail starting June 1. All non-food retail. The sector employs about 300,000 people.

Of course, people also need the whole range of goods they cannot purchase online. This is an entire sector of important services and the economy. This is the first proposal. Second, we need to re-open some of the everyday services that do not require long contact between people, such as laundries, dry cleaners and repair services. These are also very important.

And, perhaps, the main thing for people who have been staying at home during these months, even without walks: it is important to have a chance to get out of the house and take a walk along the street or in a park. Of course, it is a very difficult decision, because if we just say, “Let us just walk around for as long as we like,” I am afraid that Moscow streets will look like a Labour Day rally.

This is a very difficult step, so we suggest launching it in test mode and making a schedule of when people living in different buildings will be able to take a walk. We should make the schedule as simple and accessible as possible, but not all at once, and test it for a week or two to see how the situation develops. I think everything will be fine, but still we have to take precautions here. This is my second proposal.

Third: as I have reported to you, Mr President, we have begun to transition a number of hospitals back to providing routine medical care. You have instructed all the federal agencies with medical institutions to help us. We have created a strong group to counter the COVID pandemic: about 23,000 hospital beds, 5,000 observation beds and about 15,000 temporary medical centres. This is, perhaps, the strongest group in global cities. It allowed us to stay safe in case of any scenario.

Thank God – we have spoken with you about this – we managed to avoid the worst scenario, and now almost half of the beds are unused. This means that we can gradually begin to introduce planned medical care, normal work. We have drawn up a schedule for this with the Health Minister and will get down to work next week. Moreover, we increased the opportunities for planned medical care in existing hospitals; this is also an important area.

I must say, I think we have control over the situation; I am sure that it will improve in Moscow. Despite, of course, all the “buts,” all the precautions and so on, and the high-alert mode, I think that it will improve.

Vladimir Putin: Fine.

Mr Sobyanin, I would like to say in this regard, we have been in constant contact with you during all these weeks and months. I have seen how you personally were concerned about the situation that developed in the capital, how your team worked. And what would I like to say in this regard? This is both my assessment and that of the specialists, including international experts, international organisations: in general, your work and your entire team’s work was – of course, various things happened, we all saw it, minor failures are inevitable here, but overall the work was very responsible, focused and balanced, and every step was well thought out.

What is important, you were proactive and did not lose time. And the fact that Moscow created such a reserve, such a backup – I will speak more about this now – is extremely important and this gave us the opportunity not only to reduce stress, but also the opportunity to open in a timely manner those basic industries that you mentioned.

The situation in Moscow, as well as in the country as a whole, is indeed stabilising. Compared with the peak values in early May, the number of detected coronavirus cases in the capital has reduced twofold, while the number of tests is growing. Between late April and late May, the number of tests also doubled from 25,000 to 50,000 a day.

I want to point out a telling fact that you have also noted: many more people are being discharged from Moscow hospitals than are being admitted daily, while there are about 10,000 available beds. You have also said that. And I think it is extremely important that part of the earlier re-equipped beds for coronavirus patients, which you mentioned, will returned to use for routine medical care for patients with other, also serious and dangerous diseases. I will say it again: this is extremely important.

There is no doubt that the improvement is a direct result, as I have already said, of the measures taken by you and your team. And, of course, medical workers play an immense role in fighting the epidemic, in this case Moscow medical workers, who are acting professionally and selflessly, as I have said on many occasions.

I know that Moscow, as we can well imagine, was the first to encounter a large-scale outbreak, and at the peak attracted specialists from other regions, including on a temporary basis, and also built up substantial reserves of medical equipment, devices and medicines. Which, as you have rightly observed, other major world cities failed to do, or at any rate, did not do so as timely as you did it in Moscow. You also did it bearing in mind a worst-case scenario. Fortunately, it is already clear that we have managed to prevent such scenarios.

Moscow doctors, nurses and medical workers, in general, have acquired unique experience in coronavirus treatment and prevention. I know that Moscow doctors are assisting their regional colleagues in terms of methods and consultations. They are advising via videoconference on how to treat the novel disease, how to diagnose it and how to arrange most efficiently primary care and ambulance service during the epidemic. Such interaction should certainly continue.

Again, the epidemiological situation and the load on the healthcare system are gradually stabilising and decreasing in Moscow. Of course, now we need to help those regions – and we still have some – where the situation remains difficult so far, and additional help is needed right on the spot.

Therefore, considering your experience and the strong margin of safety in the Moscow healthcare system, I would ask you, Mr Sobyanin, to support the regions and send teams of Moscow medical workers to the regions that need support. Being the chairman of the corresponding working group of the State Council, you know that this support is primarily needed in Daghestan, North Ossetia, Ingushetia, as well as Trans-Baikal Territory. I would ask our Moscow colleagues to do this as quickly as possible. In addition, Moscow medical teams should be sent to Vladimir and Pskov regions in the coming days.

I would like to hear your opinion on how quickly this assistance can be provided to the regions I mentioned.

I mentioned that a large inventory of medical equipment and medicines has been accumulated in the capital. I ask you to also consider the possibility of transferring some of this reserve to the regions.

I have no doubt that Moscow will definitely help its colleagues, our citizens in other Russian regions, who still need this support. And the more effective this assistance is, the faster the situation will develop in these regions in the same way, in any case, the trends will be the same as those we are now seeing in Moscow.

Sergei Sobyanin: Mr President, I am aware that this kind of assistance is needed and it should be done promptly because nobody will need it in a week or two. I think everyone will cope without it eventually. But it is critical to help the regions now when some of them are in difficulty.

You are correct that we have been cooperating with regions already; our leading clinics provide online consultations and support certain medical decisions. Recently you spoke to Chief Doctor of Clinic 52 Maryana Lysenko. They held seminars with 10,000 doctors across the country describing the latest clinical recommendations and approaches to coronavirus treatment. This is very important work.

Now the next stage of assistance is possible locally on the ground. We will move our teams to the first four regions you listed as early as tomorrow. We will also send doctors to Pskov and Vladimir Regions shortly. In addition to doctors, we will send personal protective equipment, lung ventilators and medications to provide comprehensive support to the medical systems in those regions. We will do everything we can, and I will separately report to you on the results.

You also asked about the parade. We have finalised the organisational and technical events with the Defence Ministry. We are absolutely ready to start holding practices and then the parade itself. Together with the Presidential Executive Office and the Defence Ministry, we will finalize the organisational measures that need to be finalised in terms of events on the day of the parade. I will also report to you on this.

Vladimir Putin: All right, thank you. Good luck.

May 27, 2020, Novo-Ogaryovo, Moscow Region