Russia’s new coronavirus cases increased by over 10,000 for the second straight day on Monday, the Moscow Times reported, cementing its status as a pandemic hotspot.
Russian health officials confirmed 10,581 new coronavirus infections over the last 24 hours, just 52 fewer than on Sunday, bringing the country’s official number of cases to 145,268. The increase on Monday pushed Russia to the top of the list of European countries reporting the highest number of new cases, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).
On April 30, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin confirmed that he tested positive for coronavirus, making him the highest-ranking Russian official known to have contracted the virus.
“I have just learned that the test on the coronavirus I took was positive,” the prime minister said during a video call with Russian President Vladimir Putin shared on Russian TV.
Mishustin recommended First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov supplant him as he headed into self-isolation and Putin agreed.
“What’s happening to you can happen to anyone, and I’ve always been saying this,” Putin told him. “You are a very active person.”
Mishustin used the opportunity to urge all Russians to take the coronavirus seriously and to stay home as an 11-day, extended May holiday approached.
Russia observes several public holidays in early May, including Victory Day on May 9 to celebrate Russia’s defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. This year’s Victory Day marks the 75th anniversary and Putin had planned a major celebration in Moscow’s famous Red Square with world leaders in attendance and a grand military procession.
Russia’s fierce coronavirus outbreak has forced the nation to cancel the parade, which Putin says he has postponed. Instead, military aircraft will fly over major cities to mark the day. On Monday, fighter jets were spotted flying over Moscow, the nation’s capital, as they rehearsed for the event, AFP reports.
The Moscow Times said about half the total coronavirus cases in Russia are located in Moscow. Mayor Sergei Sobyanin reportedly said “the threat is apparently on the rise” and urged residents to follow stay-at-home orders and anti-coronavirus measures over the May holidays.
Last week, Moscow said it would begin constructing temporary hospitals to hold a total of 10,000 beds for coronavirus patients, in response to the increased need. Putin also announced last week that the sharp increase in coronavirus cases in Russia has left the country with a shortage of medical gear including personal protective equipment (PPE).
Despite the surge in cases, Russian officials have argued its fatality rate remained relatively low for a country of its size and population. At press time on Monday, Russia had reported 1,356 coronavirus deaths. Russian officials have credited their quick, aggressive actions – such as closing the country’s borders early and allegedly widespread testing and tracking of infections – for what they consider a low number. Despite this, critics have doubted Russia’s officially reported coronavirus numbers in recent weeks.
As many western European countries begin to ease their coronavirus lockdowns, Russia has extended its own until May 11. The Russian government has indicated that, after May 11, it could gradually lift quarantine measures across the country, which include restrictions on people’s movement meant to curb the spread of the virus.