The number of coronavirus cases in Moscow far exceeds official figures and is increasing quickly, the mayor of Moscow has warned President Vladimir Putin.
The mayor of Moscow has told President Vladimir Putin that the number of coronavirus cases in the Russian capital far exceeded the official figures, as Putin donned a protective suit and respirator to visit a hospital.
The comments by Sergei Sobyanin, a close ally of Putin, were authorities’ strongest indication yet that they do not have a full grasp of how widely the virus has spread throughout Russia’s vast expanse.
Russia has so far reported 495 cases of the virus and one death, far fewer than major western European countries.
Putin has previously said the situation is under control, but some doctors have questioned how far official data reflects reality, and the government on Tuesday closed nightclubs, cinemas and children’s entertainment centres to slow the spread of the virus.
“A serious situation is unfolding,” Mr Sobyanin told Mr Putin at a meeting, saying the real number of cases was unclear but that they were increasing quickly.
Testing for the virus was scarce, he said, and many Muscovites returning from abroad were self-isolating at home or in holiday cottages in the countryside, and not being tested.
“In reality, there are significantly more sick people,” Mr Sobyanin said.
The government also said it would organise a return of its citizens from countries hit by the coronavirus if they wanted to come.
Jail time proposed
Meanwhile Mr Putin donned a bright yellow full-body hazmat suit and respirator as he visited a hospital on the outskirts of Moscow that is treating coronavirus patients, and praised the doctors for their work.
Separately, two senior politicians including Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the lower house of parliament, proposed legislation to make flouting anti-virus quarantine measures punishable with jail time.
The bill would provide for up to seven years’ jail for actions that led to the death of two or more people, or up to three years for causing mass infection, the RIA news agency reported.
Australians must stay at least 1.5 metres away from other people. Indoors, there must be a density of no more than one person per four square metres of floor space.
If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor, don’t visit, or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.
If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.