Coronavirus: Vladimir Putin says Russia virus situation 'under control'

Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 17, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

MOSCOW (AFP) - President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday (March 17) said the coronavirus situation was "under control" in Russia and outbreaks of infection had been contained.

Russia reported 114 cases of coronavirus, up from 93 on Monday, with no fatalities.

The country is closing its borders to foreigners from Wednesday, and cultural and sports events have been suspended.

"We were able to contain mass penetration and spread" of the pandemic, the Russian president told a cabinet meeting.

"The situation is generally under control... despite the high risk level," he said.

On Tuesday, the industry ministry recommended that restaurants introduce special sitting arrangements and mandatory hand washing and for staff to advise people over 60 to go home, according to Russian news agencies.

Putin appealed to the public and the government to "act with self-awareness and organisation and to care for one another," while urging officials to provide accurate information on the virus.

He thanked health workers and ordered increased funding for the state health watchdog that does most of the virus testing, as well as for primary care physicians.

Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, who oversees the health system, dismissed concerns that authorities might struggle if thousands of Russians required artificial ventilation.

Russia is "ready to use more than 40,000 respiratory support systems," she told the cabinet, while adding that 106 of the cases in Russia were not severe.

Following public concerns over testing, the government has said it will step up testing and send more kits to regional facilities.

Official figures indicate that more than 110,000 people have been tested for the coronavirus.

"We are producing up to 100,000 test kits per day," Golikova added.

Meanwhile, a research institute in Siberia has started testing vaccine prototypes on animals, the laboratory chief said on Monday.

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