Taking part in the meeting were Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Anton Vaino, First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov, First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Sergei Kiriyenko, deputy prime ministers Viktoria Abramchenko, Tatyana Golikova, Alexander Novak, Alexei Overchuk and Dmitry Chernyshenko, Deputy Prime Minister – Chief of the Government Staff Dmitry Grigorenko, Deputy Prime Minister – Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District Yury Trutnev, Presidential Aide Maxim Oreshkin, Minister of Economic Development Maxim Reshetnikov and Minister of Finance Anton Siluanov. First Deputy Speaker of the Federation Council – Secretary of the United Russia Party General Council Andrei Turchak, Minister of Transport Vitaly Savelyev, Minister of Energy Nikolai Shulginov, Chairman of the Accounts Chamber Alexei Kudrin, Governor of the Kemerovo Region – Kuzbass – Chairman of the State Council Commission on Energy Sergei Tsivilev, and Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller were invited to attend the meeting.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues.
I am delighted to see all of you.
This is our first working meeting this year in this format. Thankfully, the holidays are coming to an end, and we can see that they have passed calmly and smoothly. Life goes on, though. And the issue on our agenda today is a matter of concern to millions of our citizens – the connection of households to gas supply networks. Alexander Novak will deliver the report, and I would also like Andrei Turchak to say a few words on this matter, because United Russia has been involved in it from the very beginning.
However, I would like to begin with the coronavirus response efforts. The virus is still giving us a hard time, and not only us but the world as a whole. We can see what is happening in the United States, where over a million people, or actually 1.3 million, have contracted the disease, as far as I know. The situation with the omicron variant is much the same in several European countries.
This offers further proof that our decision to dispatch a group of specialists to the South African Republic was the right one. Once again, I would like to thank the President of South Africa and his colleagues for enabling us to work with this strain right on the spot where it emerged and was detected. I do hope that we will benefit from this initiative in terms of being able to take the necessary decisions in a timely manner.
It is also obvious that we are now facing an extremely challenging situation as we anticipate new possible outbreaks, especially since we had these long holidays with people getting together a lot. This will definitely affect the epidemiological situation in the country.
I would like Ms Golikova to begin our meeting today.
Ms Golikova, the floor is yours.
Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova: Thank you.
Good afternoon, Mr President, colleagues.
I will report on the current developments, as we have agreed.
The incidence rate in the Russian Federation at the end of the first week of the year stood at 76.3 cases per 100,000 people, down 19.4 percent compared to the last week of 2021.
However, this gives us a misleading picture, since certain regions performed fewer tests in the last weeks of 2021 and in the first week of 2022. In fact, we had 239 tests per 100,000 people in the first week of 2022 with testing levels decreasing in 66 regions of Russia. Let me remind you that under the guidelines issued by the Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare we must have 300 tests per 100,000 people.
Yesterday during the Coordination Council meeting chaired by Mr Mishustin we had a detailed discussion on the testing issue, and the Prime Minister instructed all the regions not only to comply with the regulatory guidelines but to exceed them. The logic is abundantly clear: early detection helps stop the virus from spreading and enables us to provide patients with timely assistance and treatment.
Let me remind you that, just as we have already reported to you, the Government allocated funds for the delivery of express COVID-19 tests to the regions in order to be able to differentiate between COVID, flu, tonsillitis and other colds that have similar symptoms.
Our plan is to deliver three million testing kits in the near future. We have already delivered 810,000 tests to 25 regions. The Government is drafting a new decision to earmark funds for the delivery of 3.5 million express tests each month throughout the first half of 2022.
In addition to this, in November 2021, the Government compiled an exhaustive single list of indications for all regions for carrying out COVID-19 PCR tests covered by mandatory health insurance as part of the state programme guaranteeing free healthcare services to the citizens of the Russian Federation. This measure has been renewed for 2022 so that every citizen with flu symptoms or a positive express test undergoes a full COVID testing for free. At the same time, regions can add more indications for carrying out tests at their own expense.
(Tatyana Golikova went on to share specific data on the occupancy of hospital beds and herd immunity, saying that this figure for the entire country currently stands at 63.2 percent. She also reported on the declining death rate in the country, which is attributable to the decreasing incidence rate, as well as ongoing vaccination: in December 2021, the death rate decreased 16.4 percent compared to November 2021, and was down 11.6 percent compared to December 2020. Ms Golikova pointed out that the most substantial increase in vaccinations happened in late September and early October 2021, which largely explains the decline in incidence and death rates.)
In your opening remarks, you also talked about the developments around the world and in Russia in late 2021. This is when the Omicron strain started to gain momentum. Unfortunately, we now have a clear understanding that a new outbreak cannot be avoided, but our mission is to do everything to contain the infection.
The Government drafted a plan of action to this effect and presented it to you in late 2021. In late December, regions received a set of instructions and by now have fulfilled them or are still working on these tasks. (According to Tatyana Golikova, this includes, in particular, stepping up controls for making sure that confirmed and contact cases, as well as people returning from countries with an unfavourable epidemiological situation, remain isolated. This also includes ensuring that the necessary medicines, PPE and oxygen are available, and that medical institutions, ambulance services and laboratories are ready for the outbreak.)
Looking at how Omicron is spreading abroad, as well as the fact that it has been detected in and around the capital and in a number of other regions across the country, we see that this new strain is quite contagious, in fact three to seven times more contagious, according to various estimates.
We have already detected 698 cases of this kind, most of them in and around Moscow. The capital and its suburbs will most likely suffer from the new strain before other regions, since unfortunately this negative trend is already there.
Therefore, we believe that with this contagiousness
the transmission and detection rate of the new coronavirus variant can increase several times over. The system must prepare for this blow and promptly take comprehensive response measures so as to provide the necessary medical assistance.
What are we doing towards this end? As per the instructions from the Prime Minister, we are coordinating additional, emergency response measures, including financial support for the actions we will need to take in case of an adverse scenario.
We will formulate our proposals by the end of the week. Next Tuesday, the Prime Minister plans to hold a conference meeting with the regions, as you have instructed, in order to discuss these measures, including financial support, which will be approved and reported to you, so that they will be implemented in case of an unfavourable scenario, as I have mentioned.
Mr President, this is all I have to say about the epidemiological situation.
Vladimir Putin: Ok, thank you.
All of you have mentioned this, but I will nevertheless repeat the main points. First of all, it is the readiness of our hospitals and industries, including the pharmaceutical industry and the sectors that produce oxygen, face masks, PPE and so on. Second, we must increase the number of tests, of course. You are correct that we must do this, and COVID-19 vaccination must continue.
I have talked about this with several governors in the past few days. There are matters we must address, and we must do this quickly. It appears that Sputnik V is quite effective, and possibly even more effective than other vaccines in the world. At least, it can obviously neutralise the virus. And we must also increase the vaccination rate; we must keep this in mind.
In this connection, I would like to ask the Prime Minister to discuss this issue with the regions without delay, because we know that an effective response includes the mobilisation of various institutions, including federal, regional, local and industry-specific ones. The issue must be discussed with all of them to get prepared for possible new attacks of this virus at the next stage of its development.
We can see what is happening in the world, as I have said at the beginning and as Ms Golikova has mentioned just now. This means that we have several weeks to make the necessary preparations.
Some obvious things cannot be avoided, such as communication between people and holiday travel to foreign destinations, including countries where the epidemiological situation is complicated. Therefore, we must get ready. Please, Mr Mishustin, I would like to ask you to discuss this with the regional authorities as soon as possible.
Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin: Will do.