The prime minister joins over 114,000 other Russians who have tested positive for the novel virus.
During a videoconference yesterday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin shared that he had tested positive for COVID-19.
“It has just now became known that the coronavirus test I gave came back positive,” Mishustin told Putin on state-run television channel Rossiya 24.
“I have to observe self-isolation and follow orders of doctors. This is necessary to protect my colleagues,” he said.
Mishustin, 54, took over as prime minister in January, succeeding Dmitry Medvedev. Unlike many other semi-presidential political systems, the Russian head of government does not wield nearly as much power as President Putin.
Andrey Belousov, Mishustin’s deputy, is set to take over as acting prime minister after receiving Putin’s approval. Mishustin assured the public he would “maintain active contact” with Putin and other leaders “on all the main issues” during his self-imposed containment period, according to the Moscow Times.
He also took the opportunity to urge all Russians to take the pandemic seriously and to stay at home for the Russian holidays from May 1 to 11.
Putin thanked the PM, saying his infection shows the virus does not discriminate. Mishustin is the first senior Russian political figure to confirm an infection.
The Russian prime minister has been a lead figure in managing the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ordering the closure of the Sino-Russian border on January 30 as the virus began to spread throughout China.
COVID-19 in Russia
Infections in Russia have topped 114,000 and 1,169 patients have died. Although a concerning figure, the death toll is a relatively low mortality rate given the size of the country. Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov says Russia has avoided an “Italian scenario” thanks to its response to the outbreak.
Russia declared a month of non-working days at the beginning of April to encourage citizens to stay at home to prevent the spread of the virus. Individual regions then imposed various measures to stem the pandemic.
Moscow has been under strict lockdown since March 30, ordering all 12 million residents to stay in their homes, with few exceptions.
Although Putin said in recent weeks that Russia was “slowing its spread” of the virus, the country confirmed 7,933 new infections today, a new daily high. After surpassing China and Iran in cases this week, Russia is the eighth most-affected country in the world.
Putin has lately warned that although COVID-19 testing capacity has expanded to 150,000 tests per day, the country lacks enough protective equipment for health workers. In several regions, medics have complained of having insufficient protective suits.
On April 28, Putin said Russia had not yet reached its peak of COVID-19 cases, but the country may be able to commence a “phased exit” from lockdown measures on May 12, “depending on the epidemiological situation” in the country’s regions.
Meanwhile, in the capital, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said he thinks many residents of the city do not realize the severity of the COVID-19 situation. He said the city has seen increased violations of restrictions and estimated Moscow is only a quarter of the way through the crisis.
As officials fear warmer weather and expect the 11-day holiday to send families pining for the countryside, Moscow police are increasing patrols to ensure the capital’s confinement.