President Vladimir Putin said Russia had "under control" the spread of coronavirus just over a week ago. Now, the country is shifting strategies, as officials admit that they are planning for a significant outbreak of Covid-19.
Putin admitted in a nationwide address on Wednesday that it was objectively difficult to avoid [coronavirus] from spilling over into a country the size of Russia. He encouraged Russians to "comprehend the difficulty of the situation" and stay home, announcing a paid stay-at-home holiday plan next week.
The Kremlin announced a case of coronavirus in the administration of Putin on Friday and the government said that steps to contain the virus introduced in Moscow would be extended across the country.
For the third day in a row, the official count of confirmed cases jumped by a record regular sum taking Russia's total to 1,036. The governor of the Krasnodar region, which includes Sochi's Black Sea resort, had to order the closure of all shopping centers, parks and restaurants, and ban flights.
It was a classic display of leadership but Putin stopped short of supplying the public with a bitter pill. While announcing a range of steps to improve the economy of the country and encouraging people not to go out of their residences, he left it to other officials to announce more comprehensive lockdowns.
Moscow officials said the government took measures to stop the virus from spreading further after a presidential staff member tested positive of the virus. The person did not come into contact with Putin, officials disclosed but declined to reveal the person's identity.
After Putin's speech early Wednesday, the Russian government declared it would close all its borders and cancel international flights except repatriation planes which are expected to carry thousands of Russians from hard-hit areas back home.
The number of reported cases of coronavirus in Russia remains considerably lower than in other European countries, but Moscow's mayor told Putin on Tuesday that the real scale of the problem in the capital far exceeded official estimates.
An opinion poll conducted by the Moscow-based Levada Center showed that most Russians do not believe the official figures, some 59 percent. Twenty-four percent said they "completely" didn't believe them and 35 percent said they believed them only partly, the survey revealed.
Meanwhile, as a gift from Alibaba founder Jack Ma, Russia has received over a million face masks and 200,000 coronavirus test kits, becoming the latest country to welcome a donation from the Chinese billionaire businessman in the midst of the global health crisis.