Meeting with regional heads on countering the spread of the coronavirus 2020-04-28 19:00:00 Novo-Ogaryovo, Moscow Region The President held a meeting, via videoconference, with heads of the Russian regions on countering the spread of the coronavirus infection. The meeting was attended by 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 Minister Tatyana Golikova, Deputy Prime Minister – Chief of the Government Staff Dmitry Grigorenko, Deputy Prime Minister – Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District Yury Trutnev, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko, presidential aides Igor Levitin and Maxim Oreshkin, Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov, Minister of Healthcare Mikhail Murashko, Minister of Economic Development Maxim Reshetnikov, Minister of Finance Anton Siluanov, presidential plenipotentiary envoys to the federal districts, the Head of the Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare – Chief State Sanitary Doctor of the Russian Federation Anna Popova and Head of the Federal Medical-Biological Agency Veronika Skvortsova. * * * President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Colleagues, good afternoon, I hope everyone can see and hear me. Today we are having a videoconference with the heads of all Russian regions. We will discuss the results of our joint work, developments in specific regions and the tasks we have to address together. Let me remind you that on April 2 I signed an Executive Order declaring the period through April 30 as non-working days, and the regional heads were given additional powers to establish a list of specific preventive measures. All of this made it possible to ensure a flexible approach without applying one-size-fits-all restrictions to people at random but introducing truly necessary measures in every region and municipality. What have we managed to do so far? We have concentrated and mobilised all our industrial resources. Let me give you several numbers. They are growing and being constantly updated. For example, at the beginning of this year we produced 60–70 ventilators per month, while in April this figure is over 800. There will be 2,500 in May. Protective mask production grew more than 10 times: from 800,000 per day early this year to 8.5 million in April. Russia has launched from scratch the production of an entire range of medicines necessary to treat the coronavirus infection. Over March and April, our industry has increased the production of test kits nine times. While the number of tests carried out in Russia at the beginning of March was 2,500 per day, now we conduct approximately 150,000 per day. That is a sixty-fold increase. The coverage will constantly expand. A total of 3,000 protective suits per day were made in January. By the end of April we will produce 100,000 suits. By mid-May – over 150,000 suits. Yes, this is a lot compared to what was available before, but it’s still not enough compared to what is needed now. Ready-made sets of protective suits for doctors, nurses and other medical personnel, all those who work in the most risky, so-called “red zone” are being distributed immediately. Despite these measures, the substantial increase in domestic production and large import purchases, there is still a shortage of some technical items, equipment and disposable materials. I instruct the Government and the Ministry of Industry and Trade to continue this work and organize it in a way that will allow increasing the production every day. I would like to ask you to ensure strict and permanent control over the fulfilment of these plans and to use the maximum industrial capacity in the regions, as well as small and medium-sized companies. Further, we have managed to considerably increase the margin of safety in healthcare. Let me recall that the regions were charged with the task of installing an additional 95,000 specialised beds equipped with everything necessary for treating patients with the coronavirus. I receive daily reports on this issue. I know that on the whole this task has been fulfilled on time. In fact, 116,000 beds are ready, even more than initially planned. But this is a general picture of the country. It is important for every region to be 100 percent ready to fight for every life. We need to avoid a situation where it is feast or famine region by region. I think it’s important to emphasise one more point. The world is facing the coronavirus epidemic for the first time. But thanks to the researchers and doctors, we know much more about this dangerous disease today than we did only recently. So, we can be more accurate with forecasts and in developing strategies and tactics to counter the disease. Moreover, both our own and foreign experience in countering the epidemic shows that decisions made yesterday may not be enough tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. Therefore, I am instructing the Healthcare Ministry to continuously monitor the situation in the country in general, and in every region specifically, and to regularly update its plans considering that the situation changes almost every day. To repeat, we must act proactively like before and, if necessary, immediately take measures to deploy additional specialised beds in regions where existing capacity may not be enough in the coming weeks. We must consider all possible scenarios and be ready for them. I am addressing now the heads of the regions. If your plan on preparing specialised beds is completed, this is no reason to stop working on this, to report and believe it is finished. Please, use every opportunity to increase the resources and preparedness of the healthcare system in your region without waiting for orders from above. It is also essential that, at this point, specialised beds are the priority. However, the entire healthcare system must work effectively to successfully counter the epidemic. If there is a problem somewhere, or not enough personnel, or specialists are overloaded working with patients then people will suffer. If they cannot receive assistance in time then they will end up in the hospital with serious complications. Let me repeat that everything must work smoothly; every link must work like a single machine: local therapists, specialised doctors, admission and diagnostics rooms and emergency medical services. I know that today, April 28, unofficially marks the establishment of emergency medical services in Russia. I would like to congratulate doctors, paramedics, nurses, medical attendants and drivers on this day and thank them all for their so much needed work. During these stressful days and weeks, you have shown courage and your best personal qualities. And I think it’s appropriate to declare this date your professional holiday: Emergency Medical Service Worker Day. We will do this. It is clear that right now our main medical efforts are focused on countering the coronavirus. But, unfortunately, nobody has the power to eliminate other dangerous diseases like cardiovascular, oncological and other serious and chronic diseases. We cannot abandon people with these diseases either. We cannot just say: wait and be patient. Despite today’s extraordinary situation, people must get all the medical help they need. Next, in order to support the economy and Russian families and maintain employment and personal income, we have adopted several packages of measures and have allocated unprecedented resources for them. Decisions were worked out in only hours and became the basis for draft laws right during the working meetings. But work on their implementation must be just as precise and quick. The heads of federal agencies and the heads of the regions are personally responsible for this. Let me highlight: these decisions will only be considered fulfilled when people, large families and medical personnel receive the payments due to them and when enterprises actually use the support measures. As long as there is even a single case, which might seem like an individual problem, people will talk about it, and the issue of control will remain. Finally, the key subject I want to talk about, reviewing the last few weeks. We have managed to slow the epidemic. This is the result of working together and the responsibility of millions of people who listened to the recommendations of doctors and specialists, who care about their health and their families and who comply with the authorities’ instructions. The daily number of new cases of the disease has become relatively stable. But we cannot relax. The situation is still very difficult. Experts and scientists – and we maintain constant contact and check our plans and actions – say that the peak is still ahead of us. We are facing a new and perhaps the most intense stage in countering the epidemic. The risk of infection is reaching a peak; the threat and the lethal risks of the virus remain, and everyone is at risk. I would like to talk about what we will have to do in this sense. We must all be as focused, disciplined and mobilised as possible. We must do everything we can to make the wave of the epidemic recede and finally decrease, which will give us a chance to slowly, step by step, lift the restrictions and return to a normal life, which everyone, of course, misses. Everyone is waiting for this. But, if all of us, all Russians, strictly comply with the necessary requirements and follow the quarantine and self-isolation rules, we will get through this sooner. Of course, we all wish to see the end of the forced discomfort as soon as possible. But let me repeat that it would be careless to hope that the threat has ostensibly subsided and that we will now certainly avoid it. This would be even dangerous. I have made the following decisions in this context. First, we will soon have the long May holidays and working days in between them: May 6, 7 and 8. We know that in a normal situation, many people would not be working, would take days off or a vacation. But now it is all the more important not to risk it. Therefore, I consider it appropriate to make these three days paid non-working days. Thus, taking into account all the May holidays, the period of non-working days will extend to May 11 inclusive. But please note that this will take place on the condition of strict observance of preventive measures adopted in the regions. Second, regional heads will keep their additional powers. I would like to ask all of you to be at your workplaces. Please note, colleagues, that it is necessary to act carefully, in proportion to the level of threat and the real situation in a given region. Do not take decisions charged with emotions or copied from other places. What is justified in some regions may do harm in others. The third point in this context. We understand that the situation is different in different regions. Some were the first to face the epidemic and in other places the threat emerged later. The restrictions and preventive measures are also different. We must take into account the entire complexity and multidimensional character of these processes. When the country as a whole passes the peak of the epidemic, the situation may still remain tense in individual regions. The threat will not disappear everywhere at once. And it is simply unacceptable to speak about an instantaneous lifting of restrictions. We must be ready for the uphill road ahead. We must foresee all risks and show common sense, responsibility and stamina so that we do not retreat and do not lose everything that we have achieved in the past few weeks. In this regard, I instruct the Government and Rospotrebnadzor, along with the State Council working group, to draft over the next week, that is, by May 5, recommendations, specifically criteria and parameters of successive steps, to ensure a phased exit from lockdown restrictions starting May 12. Of course, this should be firmly tied to the current epidemiological situation and its stable outlook. Please note that the regions should receive such recommendations in advance. That is why I am setting the deadline for May 5. This way regional governments will have another week to prepare and plan their actions for after May 11. At the same time, they, as before, should have room for manoeuvre, for flexible independent decisions. They will need to make appropriate decisions based on the situation on the ground and consulting with specialists. In some of the regions, tight restrictions will need to be maintained or even strengthened for a while, while in others, some of them can start to be relaxed, of course, with a clear understanding of all the risks. I am referring to the gradual lifting of self-isolation regime, reopening industrial enterprises, companies in the services and retail sectors, construction, agriculture, other organisations and institutions. Again, we must brace ourselves for a complex process ahead, and accept that it is not going to be as fast as we would like it to be. But it is not worth rushing and risking a reversal. And finally, the fourth point. The coronavirus pandemic has hit the economy and business hard. The most acute problems are faced by individual entrepreneurs, self-employed citizens, small companies, including family-owned enterprises. People have spent years developing those businesses, investing their energy, hard work, savings, and hopes. We must support them. Give them confidence in the future. Therefore, I instruct the Government to develop a new package of urgent measures to support the economy and citizens, as soon as possible. But that is not all. I ask the Government, together with the regions and businesses, to start preparing for the future a large nationwide action plan to normalise business life, to restore employment, peoples’ incomes and economic growth. We must begin this work without delay. We must begin drafting the necessary decisions and consolidating the necessary resources for them now, so once we can launch this programme, it can be deployed at full capacity, in concert, simultaneously with the phased exit from the epidemiological situation and the restrictions associated with it. Please take note of the strategic objective for this nationwide action plan – not just to stabilise the country, but also to promote long-term structural changes in the Russian economy to incorporate the new reality that is now taking shape around the world. <…> Vladimir Putin: Colleagues, We are in constant contact. Today’s discussion has shown that, on the whole, there is onward movement, in the right direction, in the right amount, at the right pace. As I said, now is not the time to relax. We will keep working. Thank you for your ideas, for your proposals that were mentioned during our discussion. Of course, all this will be analysed and taken into account in practical work. And now I would like to address not only my colleagues in the regions and members of the Government of the Russian Federation. I would like to address all citizens of Russia. For each of us, the most precious thing is life, the health of our loved ones, safety of our parents and children. We feel it especially acutely now, we worry for our families, for our friends, trying to protect them from this dangerous threat. And yet it may, and does, seem to some that it’s not so bad. Many people do not see the threat and just do not feel it. After all, even in Moscow with the largest number of cases – 48,000 people – this is only 0.4 percent of the capital’s residents. But first, we are talking about the lives and health of real people, and there are plenty of them. And, second, the danger that the disease will spread further has not passed. It is still very high. Among our relatives, colleagues, people whom we know well, there are more and more of those who have been directly affected by the disease, who were infected or admitted to the hospital with complications. My dear friends, I would like to express my deepest sympathies to everyone who has been touched by grief, who are experiencing the irreparable loss of a loved one. I understand how difficult it is: the bitterness of the loss and the burden of fatigue, anxiety and uncertainty. This certainly exhausts and psychologically depletes people. Material, financial and household problems are piling up. And each of us just wants to exhale and say: it is finally over, it is all behind us. Especially when it is spring, and warm and sunny days come not only to the south of Russia, but also to the Urals, Siberia, and the Far East. Many people have planned to spend May holidays in the countryside, where it is possible. And of course, this should be done. But friends, I am asking you to be responsible and take every precaution, and do not go to your friends or neighbours, do not gather in large groups, and avoid unnecessary travel. We all must not allow any missteps in the fight against coronavirus. The upcoming May holidays will be decisive. We are extending the non-working period and restrictive measures in the regions through May 11 precisely to avoid such missteps. Observing all safety requirements and the self-isolation order, we will still celebrate our sacred holiday, Victory Day. The entire country will do this together, no matter what. This day and its spirit will forever be in our hearts. On May 9, aircraft, modern warplanes and helicopters will take to the Russian skies to fly in formation in honour of our heroes. The traditional fireworks will go ahead in city centres at night. We will commemorate the soldiers of the Great Patriotic War who are no longer with us. And, of course, we will congratulate our veterans. Even if we cannot hug them, we will find an opportunity to share some warm words. Together with our children and grandchildren, we will look through old family photo albums and tell them what we heard about the war from our parents and grandparents. We will sing songs – Victory Day, Katyusha, Zemlyanka – songs we love and know by heart. Everything we have planned to mark the 75th anniversary of the Great Victory will definitely take place. We will hold the main parade on Red Square and the march of the Immortal Regiment. We will celebrate this major anniversary once we are sure it is completely safe, above all for our veterans. Friends, Perhaps for the first time after the war the world faces such trying times. Of course, we cannot compare it to the ordeals of war, and thank God for that. But we must understand that today we are fighting an enemy. We cannot underestimate its threat to people’s lives, health and welfare. We can see the impact of the spread of the coronavirus all over the world, and we are doing everything we can to stop it. Of course, our medical professionals are absorbing the main blow. They risk their lives every day saving others, and they are urging us all to be careful and self-isolate as required. They are truly on the medical frontline. They are out there doing battle for us all. Their word carries a lot of weight for us to realize the critical importance of the restrictions that have been introduced. Yes, any bans, even if justified, that upset the normal course of life are certainly annoying and may even make people angry. But it is hard to agree when people’s irritation grows into disrespect for other people, with vanity and shouting about violating personal freedom and constitutional rights. In this context, I would like to explain again what my decisions are based on. Freedom is, of course, an absolute value in modern civilisation. I am referring to the freedom of every citizen. But every human’s life is inimitable and is also an absolute value given to us from above. And we must protect it so that people can experience joy, love, raising children and just living. Let me also recall a well-known adage: the freedom of everyone is limited by the freedom of others. This is very appropriate during the pandemic. If some people prefer to behave differently and raise their unlimited personal freedom above the interests and freedoms of others, then they are threatening their lives. In this case, freedom becomes irresponsibility, egotism and, to a certain extent, violence as regards others and could trigger serious trouble. And one more point – about the ethical, moral choices we are facing today. Some people in the world in general and Russia in particular maintain that it is more important to think about the economy and material prosperity, which is, of course, important. But what is being implied here? Basically, it implies moving forward, by stepping over everything and everyone without looking back. This basically implies ignoring the risks of the epidemic and simply lifting the restrictions as soon as possible. And if some people get sick, then they will be sick and become incapacitated or even die and this is their lot. It comes down to survival of the fittest, where everyone is only out for himself. We know from history and world literature that in primitive times, seniors, sick children and weak people were simply abandoned for the sake of the survival of an entire tribe. Perhaps, there was simply no other way to get through those times. But we live in the 21st century and I will say straightaway that those who suggest sacrificing people today and leaving them to their own devices are only calling for a return to savagery and barbarity. Legends say that in ancient Sparta, ill-born babies were tossed into a chasm at the foot of Mount Taygetus, but most historians and archaeologists now dismiss this as myth. Yet, we do know that the Spartan society operated on rigid orders. However, even that did not help; ultimately, Sparta lost its statehood. A revealing story. Let’s now recall a very short – just a few pages – but poignant story by Jack London, The Law of Life, which can move one to tears. It describes a tribe that abandons its old people who became a burden. Their children gave them some food and left, leaving their parents to be eaten by animals, leaving them to die. But the old father, left alone by the fire, trusted and hoped until the end that his sons would return for him. Can you imagine for a moment that we would treat our parents, our grandparents like that, like they did in that story? I will never believe it. This is not our genetic code. Because we take from our ancestors who taught us completely different things. Russia has lived a thousand years with values such as mutual assistance, mutual support and solidarity. And today these are the main pillars of our statehood. We inherited them along with Orthodoxy. These values are also at the core of other religions professed by the peoples of Russia – Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism. A philosophy of humanism has helped us survive for centuries. And today the future of our families, the fates of other people, depend on our responsibility. I repeat – people and their lives are what matters most to us now. Any other choice would be unacceptable for our people. I know, I am fully confident that the absolute majority thinks so, and acts in good conscience. We need to save people, to keep them alive, and the rest will follow. We will certainly rectify things and make up for everything; we will defeat this coronavirus and when it’s all over we will bail out the economy together, bolster prosperity, and will certainly support those who have lost their jobs and savings, those going through hard times now; we will prop up our struggling businesses, help them save jobs, and get strong again. More state support measures will be added and expanded. And now, each achievement, however small, but still a real success, especially each life saved, is strengthening our hope and confidence in a victory over the pandemic. We will force it to retreat. Life will get better, I promise. And it lies in our power to make this happen as soon as possible, so we will not only overcome these trials and tribulations, but also create a reliable context for future development. Thank you all. Thank you.