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Meeting with Government members

March 17, 2020, The Kremlin, Moscow

Vladimir Putin held a regular meeting with Government members.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues,

We have many important issues to discuss today. Let us start with our measures to counter the coronavirus infection that is now known all over the world. Then we will talk about the spring sowing campaign and discuss housing and utilities.

But before we start discussing these serious, nationally important issues, I would like to wish a happy birthday to Andrei Belousov. It is his birthday today. He enjoys alpine tourism, rock climbing.

I would like to give you a book – we all want to give you a book. It is entitled Rock Routes near the Great Sevastopol Trail. Happy birthday to you!

I have already mentioned the issues that we are going to discuss. Mr Mishustin asked me to give him the floor to start the discussion on the structure and plans of work to counter the spread of the coronavirus.


Vladimir Putin: Colleagues,

I would like to address you, members of the Russian Government, our colleagues in the regions – we are now working with them very closely, practically on a daily basis. I would like to address all citizens of this country.

We are watching how the situation with the spread of the coronavirus infection is unfolding. Most countries have already seen some consequences of this disease both in healthcare and in the economy.

In some countries, like our friends, the People's Republic of China (PRC) or the Republic of Korea, the situation is changing for the better. This is perfectly obvious. We can only rejoice in this together with our friends.

But a difficult, sometimes even challenging situation is developing in other states, including European countries. The number of new cases is growing rapidly almost every day.

These countries are taking emergency measures, including quarantines, border closure, restrictions on large public events, cancellation of air flights and travel by other types of transport. Education institutions adapt their teaching practices to a special regime or close. Obviously, these measures are justified and contingent on the situation. Of course, we wish all our colleagues success in this effort, in countering this infection.

Naturally, this external threat could not bypass Russia, especially since the bigger part of this large country is located in the east, in the Far East and beyond the Urals, while a considerable part of the population lives in the European part. We have contact with states from different parts of the world.

Today, considering our intensive business, humanitarian and simply human contact with foreign countries, the situation in this sense is becoming more complicated. But, as you know, viruses have never observed state borders. Today, the situation is different because of the frequent travel in the world.

However, thanks to the prompt measures taken proactively both at the regional and federal levels, already in the first weeks of the epidemic, we managed to contain the massive – I would like to underscore – massive penetration and spread of the infection in Russia.

Now, despite the potentially high level of risk – I need to say this, and I will return to this again – despite the high level of risk, the situation is generally under control.

Medical institutions, border and other services are in high alert mode. Federal and regional authorities monitor the situation hourly, making the necessary decisions. As the Prime Minister just said, a coronavirus response coordination council has been set up under the Government of Russia with a corresponding working group at the State Council.

I ask you to continue to be highly mobilised, to act in a coordinated and coherent manner and, most importantly, to try to work ahead of the curve. It is extremely important to keep people informed; it is an extremely important thing – direct, comprehensive and reliable information. We just visited the information centre, just set up here in Moscow. I think other regions need to do the same, and the Moscow centre needs to build up its capacity.

Russians should have all the necessary information: what kind of threat we are facing, what measures are being taken by the state, and what each of them should do to protect themselves and their families.

It is fundamentally important to rule out the reasons behind the emergence of harmful and empty rumours or, worse, malicious speculation on this topic. But the only thing that can offset and counter this is reliable, timely, and complete information.

At the same time, we need to take into account all aspects and risks of the possible spread of the infection, I just said that. First of all, we need medical institutions to be ready to provide timely assistance both at home and in hospitals, as Ms Golikova just said. This is what is being done and will continue to be done in the near term.

We need to take preventive and quarantine measures. We must stock up on medications, equipment and technical devices. We must also think about stocking up on personal protective equipment and antiseptics. And of course, medical facilities must have enough capacity to meet the challenge.

As for test systems for prompt diagnostics of the coronavirus and a vaccine to prevent it, our leading laboratories are working hard on this. Russia has all the necessary competences in this area and solid science for achieving these objectives in the near future. Previous experience shows that our specialists are able to resolve such major tasks.

Proper attention is being paid to test systems. Now the main goal is to drastically increase their production. This task is being tackled by the VECTOR state research centre and the Institute of Epidemiology at Rospotrebnadzor, as well as specialists from the Healthcare Ministry and the Federal Medical-Biological Agency (FMBA) institutions.

We are also using international cooperation as a resource. The Russian Direct Investment Fund will finance joint developments with our Japanese partners with a view to launching the production of express tests already in April. Eventually, this will be the world’s first portable express test.

As for the vaccine, I repeat, this work is also underway. Rospotrebnadzor specialists are engaged in this. They have been joined by specialists from the FMBA’s St Petersburg Research Institute of Vaccines and Serums.

Today, I would like to express special gratitude to the physicians, nurses, staff of infectious and other hospitals, polyclinics, out-patient clinics and the Emergency Medical Service.

Their work in this area is in high demand. Of course, it is necessary to ensure their safety and provide all of them with protective equipment for working with risk groups, but this work is important and necessary.

These people are performing their professional duty with honour as has happened repeatedly in the history of domestic medicine. They are risking their health to help others.

I ask the Government, the Healthcare Ministry and the regions to develop additional support measures for doctors and medical staff. We have already said that this work, this support must be divided into two parts.

First, to increase the salary fund for Rospotrebnadzor employees who are working on identifying the infection.

Second, to increase the salary fund in the regions. I mean to increase the corresponding salaries of the primary healthcare workers, such as local therapists, general practitioners, pulmonologists, infectious disease doctors, anaesthesiologists-reanimatologists, and nurses. Let us not forget about the junior medical staff: people who are also in the risk zone: paramedics and obstetricians at rural paramedic centres. These are the people who work directly with those who need our help and support.

Of course, I am speaking about increasing payments to them for working in emergency conditions, for the intensity of their work. This mechanism must be transparent and fair, and I am asking the Government to make decisions on additional payments and develop the procedure as soon as possible.

I am also asking to ensure that the Executive Order I have just signed – Mr Mishustin knows that – is implemented. It allows online sales of non-prescription medicines. We discussed this yesterday, too.

However – and the Executive Order includes this, and I ask the Government to note this – it is necessary to submit the necessary proposals to amend the regulatory framework, the law increasing the responsibility for counterfeit medicines, so that nobody would think about taking advantage of the situation and selling products that cannot cure.

Online sales of medicines is a very important and sensitive issue, first of all for people and families in quarantine.

In this context, I ask the Government and our telecommunications companies to use all their resources in order to fulfil the instructions I gave in my Address to the Federal Assembly as soon as possible: to provide free access from personal computers to socially important Russian websites in order to buy medicines, study online, get public services and even watch Russian films and children’s shows among other things. It is essential for people who stay at home with their families.

Furthermore, the epidemic has already had a profound effect on the global economy. Mr Belousov has just spoken about the measures that are being taken or are planned by the Government of the Russian Federation. I ask you to develop smooth cooperation between the Government, the Bank of Russia and the regions of the Russian Federation. In the last few days we have been actively engaged in fine tuning new cooperation mechanisms. They should run like clockwork.

Now we need to take precise steps to maintain economic stability and sustainability of Russian companies and industries. This primarily applies to transport, logistics and secure supplies of food products and basic necessities.

Of course, it is important to monitor the performance of key, major companies that are the backbone of our economy and many of the regions in Russia. But – Mr Belousov just spoke about this – we know that millions of people work in small and medium-sized companies, at small plants and we must not allow this important sector to sustain damage due to this roller coaster ride and force majeure. Needless to say, I will do everything I can to support the measures you mapped out on helping the economic sector.

It is necessary to relieve entrepreneurs – I also agree with this – of excessive inspections as much as possible. They should receive help in resolving their tax and debt problems. Any penalties should be issued with consideration for the current situation. This was mentioned as well, and I consider it timely and the right approach.

The social sphere requires special attention. I am referring to universities, schools, kindergartens and nurseries, as well as institution that take care of people with disabilities and elderly people. I would like to emphasise that the health and security of people must be given absolute priority.

If it is necessary, or will eventually become necessary, to announce unscheduled vacations or temporarily close children’s institutions, children must not be left alone, so, in addition to organising distance tuition, it is necessary to be in constant contact with their parents.

I would like to ask the staff at these institutions to take all this into account so we can deal with what is, let’s be straight, a difficult situation calmly and with minimal loss. We must deal with this situation in a sustained and orderly manner. Everyone is interested in this, including company owners.

It is necessary to compile special, flexible or remote work schedules for parents with children of school or preschool age, wherever possible.

I will repeat: all our decisions must be justified, clear-cut and understandable to people. They must correspond to the potential risks and be carried out as and when necessary. We must be proactive, look at how the situation is developing, prepare the relevant measures and take them as and when necessary. In effect, it turned out that way.

Let me emphasise that these steps are mandatory for all levels of government and all organisations regardless of the form of ownership or departmental subordination. It is necessary to ensure the toughest possible control. I would also like our citizens to treat these steps with understanding.

Our solidarity, concentration, responsibility, discipline and willingness to support each other are simply irreplaceable. These qualities have allowed us to overcome many difficulties, like in a good and big family.

Obviously, we must get our act together at all levels. We must deal with these goals through concerted effort and display special care for elderly people, elderly parents and for children in order to protect them as much as possible.

Explanatory information is of vital importance, as I have already said. I hope the media and volunteer associations will help with this. People must be clear on how to act, where to ask for support, and what precautions to take to protect themselves, their families, relatives, neighbours and co-workers from the potential threat.

And let me repeat: the state and society – all of us must now act conscientiously and be well-organised and responsible. We must understand the situation and take care of each other. This is the bottom line under the circumstances.


March 17, 2020, The Kremlin, Moscow