Russian President Vladimir Putin has installed a “disinfection tunnel” at his country residence, the Kremlin confirmed this week, spraying visitors with disinfectant to prevent himself from catching the Chinese coronavirus.
As part of the precautionary measures, first noticed on Tuesday evening by Russian journalists and shared on social media, visitors must walk through the disinfectant device and get sprayed from above and the side before meeting with Putin or his staff. According to its manufacturers, the device also includes facial recognition technology and can take people’s temperatures.
The measures have sparked anger among some of the Russian population, who pointed out that although Putin fears outside visitors, he has still deemed it safe to schedule a large military parade in Moscow’s Red Square this month and a nationwide referendum at the beginning of July that, if approved, could allow him to rule the country until 2036.
When asked about the device, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters two more disinfection machines had been installed in the Kremlin during the “height of the pandemic,” adding that they remained “justified and understandable where the president is concerned.”
As well as the disinfection tunnel, authorities have implemented other measures aimed at protecting the president from infection. These include regularly testing Putin and all who come into contact with him. Visitors must also return a negative virus test before meeting him.
Despite such stringent measures, Putin recently made a public appearance without a mask at an outdoor event on June 12 for the Russia Day national holiday. Some officials close to him have also tested positive for the virus, including Peskov, who has since made a full recovery. In March, Putin was also seen meeting and shaking hands with Denis Protsenko, the chief doctor at a Moscow virus hospital, neither wearing a mask. After their encounter, Putin, wearing a hazmat suit, met with coronavirus patients.
After initially reporting few cases of the virus, over the past two months, Russia has become one of the worst-hit countries in the world, confirming 561,091 cases and 7,660 deaths as of Thursday afternoon. Last week, authorities relaxed what had been extremely strict lockdown measures, allowing some businesses and public facilities to reopen and ending all mobility restrictions.
The Kremlin’s response to the coronavirus has been widely deemed a failure, as many doctors and nurses quit their jobs after complaining about a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and adequate resources for dealing with the infected.
Four people have also died when they fell out of windows in unexplained circumstances after criticizing the government’s handling of the pandemic. Three of them were active medical professionals, and the fourth worked for a government agency involved with managing the outbreak.