The participants focused on measures to boost the tourism industry. Reports were delivered by the heads of the relevant agencies. The agenda also included several current issues.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues.
Today we will discuss tourism.
Before we start working, I have a question for a tourist. Mr Oreshkin, tell us about your work with our colleagues [at the World Economic Forum in Davos], the meetings you had and whether you have anything interesting or useful to report.
Economic Development Minister Maxim Oreshkin: Overall, the forum was a rather negative experience. The international mood has greatly worsened over the past year, also because the global economy was rapidly losing momentum in the last quarter.
Vladimir Putin: The IMF also mentioned a downswing.
Maxim Oreshkin: The IMF first said so in January. In other words, they have only started adjusting their forecasts, even though negative trends became apparent in the fourth quarter of 2018.
Second, socio-political tensions are growing, with the French yellow vest protests and other events. Taken together, this had a negative impact on the forum participants.
Representatives of major companies and countries are aware of the rising problems but they do not see any solutions to them.
It is clear that some countries have reacted to this by trying to replace domestic problems with a foreign agenda, including sanctions and trade wars. All of this is the result of domestic political issues, which ultimately lead to global problems.
One of the reasons for the slackening economic growth is the trade wars, which are splitting the world into separate blocs and destroying the system that was effective for the past years.
Vladimir Putin: How much has the global trade system lost as a result of all types of restrictions?
Maxim Oreshkin: According to the WTO analysis for last year, the global economic growth shortfall was around $500 billion, which is a great deal. All this is having a negative impact on the economy.
We recently had a WTO ministerial conference. So far, there are no visible solutions to the current problems because the countries involved are not ready to seek agreement.
A large group of countries, including Russia, are willing to look for solutions. No US delegates attended that conference, which means the problems will persist.
In fact, solutions to global problems are unlikely to be found until domestic political problems are settled.
In terms of the Russian delegation’s work at the forum, the outcome was positive. We had a great deal of bilateral meetings with representatives from France, Switzerland, Portugal, Turkey, Qatar and South Korea, as well as with OPEC delegates.
We had many other meetings to discuss bilateral cooperation. The attitude towards Russia is positive. We have joint projects with all of these countries, and we are working to implement them.
I would like to add that our European partners have changed their attitude to Russia. It is gradually improving because the Europeans are seriously frustrated with what the United States is doing, in particular, increased steel and aluminium tariffs and several other things.
Vladimir Putin: We have nothing to do with this. It was a separate [US] decision regarding the European economies.
Maxim Oreshkin: Exactly.
In our opinion, all the business people who wanted to attend [the Davos Forum] did so and discussed the issues they wanted.
The forum organisers said that certain [Russian] business people would not be welcome at Davos. But I met with them, and they apologised for their actions last year. The conflict can be considered settled, but there is an unpleasant aftertaste, of course.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.
A lot has been done over the past 13 years to promote vaccinations prior to the flu season, for example, in the autumn and the winter. Could you update us on the flu rates and vaccine manufacturing?
Healthcare Minister Veronika Skvortsova: Mr President, colleagues,
Since the launch of the first national project in 2006, we have expanded the vaccination coverage 2.6-fold, while the influenza incidence rate dropped 13 times during the same period.
This season we planned to have at least 45 percent of the population vaccinated, but the actual coverage was 49 percent or 70.8 million people, while the vaccination coverage among children was as high as 63 percent, totalling 18.5 million. I would like to thank employers who took part in the vaccination campaign at their own expense, helping to vaccinate almost six million people.
Through this campaign, we have reached a sufficient level of population immunity. The flu rates started to increase in the last two weeks of 2018, and did not exceed the baseline epidemic threshold until last week.
Since last week, the baseline epidemic threshold has been exceeded by seven percent, and the incidence rate now stands at 77 per 10,000 people. The weekly indicators are 26.5 percent above the epidemic threshold.
So far we are facing a low-intensity epidemic, although the epidemic threshold has been exceeded in 23 regions, and local flu outbreaks have been reported. The highest incidence rates were reported in Buryatia, Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) and the Jewish Autonomous Region, more than double the threshold. The Far East and Siberia are more than 30 percent above the threshold, and the epidemic is on the rise the Northwestern, Central and Volga federal districts. According to our flu reference centre, next week we will see an increase in the flu incidence rate across the country.
We are expecting a medium-intensity epidemic dominated by type A influenza, which currently accounts for 76 percent of the total, with a H1N1 strain similar to the swine flu and H3N2 at similar levels.
This year, we used three high-tech Russian vaccines that contain all the strains that are currently relevant, as recommended by the World Health Organisation. It can be said that people are well equipped for this epidemic.
We checked regions to see whether they are prepared. Every region has a two-week inventory of personal protective gear and flu medicine at all times. More than 100,000 places were set up in infection wards, and we have the potential to further increase their number. There are more than 15,000 places in intensive care units. Over the past two years we upgraded equipment in all intensive care units dealing with infectious diseases. The number of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machines doubled. So we are well prepared.
We also expect ordinary people to contribute to these efforts by protecting themselves from the epidemic. It is recommended that people avoid mass events in the coming weeks unless they really need to attend, use individual protective gear, wash their hands more often and keep devices they bring up to their faces clean.
For people who do get sick, we strongly recommend seeking medical help instead of self-treatment. This is especially important for people who can get severely ill, including people with weakened immune systems, children under the age of five years, pregnant women, people suffering from chronic diseases.
This also applies to risk groups, including people working in medical and educational institutions, transport and utilities services, and those who interact with a large number of people throughout the day.
Mr President, I wanted to highlight that we have achieved substantial progress in vaccine manufacturing. The flu virus goes through antigenic drift every three to four years. As a result, the prevalent flu strains may not fully coincide with those covered by vaccines.
Vladimir Putin: Have the vaccines hit the mark this year?
Veronika Skvortsova: This year everything is fine, but last year we faced this situation with type B flu.
In 2018, many countries, pursuant to the WHO recommendation, started transitioning from triple to tetravalent vaccines.
At the Healthcare Ministry’s initiative, three Russian producers embarked upon the development of these vaccines in 2018. As of today, three drugs have been developed, with one of them registered. We expect that one drug will be registered in August or September of this year. Yet another drug will be registered in late 2020.
Jointly with the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Protection and Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor), we have drafted a plan for transitioning from triple to tetravalent vaccines starting from the next epidemic season. The high-risk population groups prone to the gravest forms of the disease will be the first beneficiaries.
Another point: two of the Healthcare Ministry’s research centres developed three universal anti-influenza vaccines in 2018. These are primarily intended against pandemic influenza and the conservative influenza epitope that does not change following changes in the strain.
Two drugs have passed the first phase of clinical testing with a very good, highly effective result. This is a safe vaccine. The drugs will be registered shortly.
Thus, this country has created a range of medications that will fully protect us against any antigenic drift of the influenza virus or emergence of pandemic strains, including H5, or the bird flu.
Therefore, I would like to report that the situation is under control and that we have taken all measures to prevent it from going beyond the usual seasonal fluctuations.
Vladimir Putin: Ms Skvortsova, the recommendations that you have voiced just now should be repeated many times by specialists in the media. In addition, it is certainly necessary to intensify work with the regions and the relevant healthcare agencies in the regions to induce them to pursue this work at the local level.
Veronika Skvortsova: We have been doing this and will continue to do so, Mr President. We will continue and intensify this work.
Vladimir Putin: Good.
To get sick less often we must go into sports more. There are the Children of Asia Games. Can you please tell us more about this?
Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets: Mr President, Mr Prime Minister, colleagues,
The Children of Asia Games will take place in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk on February 9–16. This is one of the largest competitions for children. One of its founders is the Olympic Council of Asia that includes 45 countries.
Let me recall that over 60 percent of the world’s population lives in Asia. The games are expected to be very serious and professional. Over 20 teams have applied for participation. These competitions will be held in the winter in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk for the first time. They basically open a new agenda for children’s sports competitions.
The games will consist of competitions in eight Olympic sports: figure skating, hockey, short track, alpine skiing, snowboard, biathlon, cross country skiing and ski jump. Figure skating and hockey are the most popular competitions.
We expect over 1,300 athletes to take part in the games and are looking forward to the arrival of more than 20 delegations from Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Nepal, Thailand and many other Asian countries,
Over 20,000 fans will watch the competitions at sports facilities in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. The games will be broadcast to a huge audience. We estimate that several million people will watch the games.
As of today, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk is fully prepared to host these major competitions. With your permission, Acting Governor of the Sakhalin Region Valery Limarenko will tell us in more detail about the sports facilities.
Vladimir Putin: Sports facilities and hotels?
Olga Golodets: Yes, the entire infrastructure.
Acting Governor of the Sakhalin Region Valery Limarenko: Mr President, colleagues,
The sports infrastructure, which comprises six key sports facilities that comply with all current requirements, is fully ready for the games.
It includes an athletic tourism complex and a ski centre, a ski-jump, two ice arenas, a snowboard park and a ski and biathlon complex. These facilities are ready for the athletes, judges, coaches and other specialists from 20 countries.
Mr President, I would like to note that, importantly, these facilities will be used in the future to promote sports in the Sakhalin Region. We believe that about an additional 5,000 young athletes will be able to use these sites for various sports, and we will hire 170 more instructors for classes.
I would like to note that such a large complex could form the basis for a national sports camp in the Russian Far East. We suggest doing so, and would like you to support this idea.
This complex can also be used as training grounds during preparations for important sports events and a venue for holding important international sporting events.
Now a few words about organisational issues. Transport for athletes and anyone else arriving in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, including tourists, is in place. Travel time between hotels, restaurants, training grounds and competition sites should be under 15 minutes to ensure comfort and convenience.
About 60 facilities in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk will be available to athletes, team members and guests to meet their catering and accommodation needs. More than 1,000 volunteers, who are now undergoing training, will help our guests get around.
A medical support system has been put in place as well. Eight ambulance crews and seven first-aid stations will be on duty at the sports facilities at all times. A total of 16 medical organisations will be supporting the event.
Of course, security is important. We have completed the necessary preparations in cooperation with the FSB, the Interior Ministry and the Emergencies Ministry.
We believe this will be a festive event not only for our guests, but Sakhalin residents as well, so we have come up with an extensive entertainment and sightseeing programme.
I am here to report that Sakhalin is ready to welcome the athletes and guests.
Vladimir Putin: Do you need any additional assistance?
Valery Limarenko: No, we are working closely with the federal agencies and have made all the necessary arrangements in the region.
Vladimir Putin: Good. Good luck.