Putin’s spokesman gets virus as cases continue to rise in Russia
By STEPAN KRAVCHENKO AND HENRY MEYER | Bloomberg News | Published: May 12, 2020
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(Tribune News Service) — With Russia overtaking Spain to record the world’s second-highest number of coronavirus infections, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman became the latest top official to fall ill with the deadly disease.
Dmitry Peskov told Interfax on Tuesday he is receiving treatment for the virus. He joins Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and the country’s construction and culture ministers as diagnosed with COVID-19. Peskov, traditionally the official with the closest day-to-day access to Putin, said in a text message he last met the president in person over a month ago. Putin has been conducting government business mostly via video-conferences from his residence outside Moscow.
Putin on Monday announced an end to national stay-at-home restrictions but the move is unlikely to give businesses in the capital and other major cities a rapid boost.
In Moscow, business leaders see little chance of escaping restrictions that have hammered their activities. Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said last week that the measures must remain until at least May 31 because the pathogen is still spreading, Putin’s decision shifted responsibility to regional leaders for deciding the pace of easing, shielding him from potential criticism of those who maintain them.
Despite the lockdowns, Russia has reported at least 10,000 new daily infections for the past 10 days, lifting its total to 232,243 and second only to the U.S. At the same time, Russia has one of the world’s lowest mortality rates with COVID-19 listed as the cause of death in only 2,116 cases, leading critics to claim that the government is withholding data.