Taking part in the meeting were Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Anton Vaino, Acting Prime Minister Andrei Belousov, First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Sergei Kiriyenko, deputy prime ministers Tatyana Golikova and Marat Khusnullin, Deputy Prime Minister and Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District Yury Trutnev, Presidential Aide Maxim Oreshkin, Minister of Transport Yevgeny Ditrikh, Minister of Labour and Social Protection Anton Kotyakov, Minister of Trade and Industry Denis Manturov, Minister of Healthcare Mikhail Murashko, Minister of Economic Development Maxim Reshetnikov, Minister of Finance Anton Siluanov, Governor of the Central Bank Elvira Nabiullina, Acting Minister of Construction and Housing and Utilities Nikita Stasishin, Head of the Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare – Chief Sanitary Physician of the Russian Federation Anna Popova, Head of the Federal Taxation Service Daniil Yegorov, and the heads of federal districts and all 85 regions of the Russian Federation.
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Excerpts from transcript of meeting on implementing adopted measures to support the economy and social sphere
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues,
Before starting our today’s meeting, I would like to pass along best wishes and greetings from Mr Mishustin. He is recovering. Everything is okay. He is running a temperature, as often happens in his condition, but he is getting better. I am in contact with him every day, and he takes part in drafting all our decisions. Let us wish him a speedy recovery. Meanwhile, he sends you his best regards.
Our meeting today consists of two parts: first, reports on implementing the March and April decisions on supporting people and the economy during the coronavirus epidemic, and second, steps on lifting restrictions.
I would like to recall two packages of measures that were introduced gradually, expanded and supplemented each other according to a uniform logic of actions. Considering the development of the situation, we did this gradually. The decisions were adopted taking into account the problems that people, as well as small and medium-sized businesses, are now facing.
Priority decisions included direct payments to families with children and employees of medical facilities and emergency medical services; increased allowances for those who temporarily lost their jobs after March 1; state subsidies and easy payroll loans for companies that retain their employees, their teams; and deferments of tax, loan and rent payments.
Additional support measures were adopted during a series of meetings on the situation in key sectors of the national economy: the automotive industry, the construction industry, the banking sector, the fuel-and-energy complex, the defence industry and the aerospace industry. I would like to add that tomorrow we will discuss the transport situation.
Today, I would like to hear how these support mechanisms are working in practice, and most important, how many people, families and working teams have already received this support or will receive it very soon – not sometime in the future but within the deadlines.
I would like you to report in detail on any obstacles – what has been done for prompt, immediate resolution, including adjustments in the legal framework.
And there is one more important item on our agenda. I said we would discuss two questions.
As you know, I asked you to prepare, by May 5, recommendations on the parameters for the careful, gradual lifting of the forced restrictions. The Government and Rospotrebnadzor have evaluated this in cooperation with the State Council working group. Today we will listen to the proposals.
I would like to remind all regional governors that they, in turn, must draft their own action plans for the period after May 11, based on these recommendations.
Of course, life is much more complicated than any pattern or plan. Nevertheless, it is important to have a justified algorithm of actions for every region with due account for expert opinion.
As we have seen, the spread of the coronavirus varies region by region. And as we have discussed, some regions need to maintain and even step up tough, justified prevention measures, whereas other regions may plan a reasonable loosening of restrictions, but such decisions must be made with consideration for the opinion of researchers and experts and taking into account all factors and potential risks.
I would like to emphasise that we cannot skip ahead. Any negligence or haste can lead to a breakdown or a backlash. The cost of even a minor mistake is the safety, life and health of our people. This is why our colleagues from the Government and the regional governors bear extremely high responsibility for each adopted decision. We can never forget this.
Let’s go over to the first item on our agenda, notably, reports on implementing our adopted decisions.
Minister of Healthcare Mikhail Murashko: Good afternoon, Mr President, colleagues,
To date, over 165,000 cases of the new coronavirus infection have been recorded in Russia. There are about 80,000 people with a confirmed or suspected diagnosis at hospitals, including 1,133 patients on ventilators, four of them children, and four adults who are on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.
We note that severe symptoms of the disease are more common in patients over 60, patients suffering from arterial hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and obesity, and we can see that it is more severe for men than for women.
Over 1.4 million people have completed emergency training programmes to gain the necessary skills for providing quality medical care, and over 110,000 doctors, more than 236,000 paramedics, female and male nurses, 46,000 junior medical personnel, and 31,000 ambulance drivers are now providing medical assistance.
We have also attracted about 41,000 students, residents and graduate students, and I will note that these are only the students who gave their consent and do not have medical contraindications in terms of working in high-risk ”red zone“. Of course, all of them underwent additional training on safety and medical assistance. Volunteers are actively involved, including over 5,000 of them among doctors.
Under your instructions, since April 1, the Government has allocated 45.7 billion rubles for incentive payments for special working conditions when providing medical assistance to patients with the coronavirus.
(Further, the Minister reported on specific issues regarding incentive payments and life and health insurance for medical workers.)
In order to ensure medical assistance, a number of measures have been taken, which actually helped change the system for providing assistance.
We talked about the fact that 95,000 beds were to be provided before April 28. To date, a greater number of beds have been repurposed and put into use, because a number of regions have a more complex situation. A total of 126,000 beds are available today. Moreover, we are monitoring the workload at resuscitation beds, because we have an information system that allows us to see each patient. Today, 36 percent of the total number of beds are vacant, so we do not have any shortage or problems with hospitalisation.
In the regions, access to this information system is provided from the federal level, so that each region sees the situation for each medical institution in its region. A special analytical group helps to quickly analyse all this information.
We see that at this point, the number of people hospitalised is more than the number of those discharged from hospitals, so the healthcare system is still under stress.
We are still focusing on maintaining emergency assistance for other patients, those with cancer or on dialysis because this is a very sensitive issue for people and definitely a high priority for everyone including medical workers.
Monitoring personal protection equipment availability in medical facilities lets us confidently say that the situation is stable. In addition, reusable suits for medical staff are being produced domestically and have been certified and registered.
Research and assessment of immunity among medical staff are ongoing. As of today, test systems by several domestic producers have been registered. The development and registration of test systems for PCR diagnostics also continues.
An active search for medicines is on. As I mentioned, a number of medicines are showing promise. Importantly, these are medicines with a fully integrated production cycle from active ingredient to finished dosage form. We will avoid making any early predictions, but we see that the institutions involved in this search are exchanging data, seeing results and want to be part of the clinical research studies.
To conclude, I would like to say that work on a vaccine continues and at the same time, manufacturing sites are being audited for production capacity.
Thank you very much. This concludes my report.
Vladimir Putin: I read reports on your contact with your foreign colleagues. I hope this will also be helpful. Information exchange in this difficult period for the world is most important. I see that our colleagues are committed to positive cooperation.
Mikhail Murashko: Yes, we are in contact with those healthcare ministers who have the most experience. Thank you very much for your help, including the arrangements for these contacts.
Vladimir Putin: There is something else I would like to say in conclusion. First, everyone – individuals, businesses and their executives, shareholders and owners – should know and have all the necessary information about the support measures that are offered by the Government. They need to have full and accurate information.
Second, everyone should know how they can use these benefits; these measures must also be accessible for people.
Finally, the most important point: everyone must be certain that they will receive this support. To that end, it is necessary to broaden this work as far as possible. Some payments are planned for the middle of the month, as our colleagues have mentioned. So it is necessary to make sure everyone understands what will happen in the next few days because many business executives and owners will make critical decisions immediately after May 12. I ask you to pay attention to this matter.
Let us move on to the second issue. Ms Popova, head of the Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare and Chief Sanitary Physician of the Russian Federation, will make a report on the proposed measures related to the gradual lifting of antiepidemic restrictions. Please, Ms Popova.
Head of the Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare and Chief Sanitary Physician of the Russian Federation Anna Popova: Mr President, colleagues,
At your request, Mr President, we have drafted the guidelines for determining the grounds for a phased lifting of restrictions.
I would like to note that the prompt measures we have taken have allowed us to slow down the spread of the epidemic in Russia by two months and to study the experience of other countries in lifting restrictive measures. My colleagues – researchers and practitioners – are closely monitoring the developments in Russia and other countries and analysing them.
Naturally, the situation in Russia is unique due to our country’s own features. In some regions, the growth rate of COVID-19 cases does not exceed three percent.
By your Executive Order, heads of regions received additional powers to develop a list of concrete measures to curb the epidemic. The recommendations that we have prepared for lifting restrictions are a clear guideline for this. It suggests lifting the restrictions in three stages, and at each stage, regional heads, guided by the opinions of the regional sanitary doctors, will be able to make decisions on concrete measures.
When considering lifting the restrictions, we suggest assessing three main criteria: the growth rate of coronavirus cases, that is, the number of new cases; the number of free hospital beds for COVID-19 patients; and the test rate to see how far the infection has spread in a region. All these criteria are assessed in retrospect for the past one or two weeks given the incubation period of the virus.
We have drafted the guidelines bearing our main goal in mind, which is to preserve the people’s health. Self-isolation helped us smooth out the incidence peaks and avoid an explosive increase in the incidence rate. Now, in self-isolation, the people are in touch only with their families or colleagues if they continue to attend their workplaces.
At each stage, there will be more public spaces where the people will get in contact with each other. The first stage will include outdoor exercise and sports, outings with children, and opening small retail and services outlets while observing social distancing.
The second stage will include family outings, opening larger retail and services outlets while limiting the number of customers served simultaneously. Educational institutions will be opening during this stage as well.
During the third stage, recreation facilities will be opening, such as parks and other green spaces provided social distancing is observed, retail and services outlets of all sizes without limit on the number of customers served at the same time, all educational institutions, hotels and restaurants.
To reiterate, in accordance with the proposed recommendations, regional heads will be the ones to decide on the phased lifting of restrictions. Should the epidemic get worse, restrictive measures may be resumed.
Already today, Rospotrebnadzor has drafted and released specific guidelines for organising work for each type of business in compliance with all safety and prevention measures. We know from our experience that when people follow these recommendations, the risk of getting ill is at its lowest.
Today, backbone, life-supporting agricultural enterprises and major construction projects continue to operate. Their work was organised in strict compliance with the coronavirus prevention recommendations, which made it possible to avoid the spread of the disease at these sites during the entire period under report.
The focus of our attention has at all stages remained on the people who are at higher risk, such as the elderly and people with chronic diseases. Of course, they should take extra precautions when leaving home.
A number of regions, 68 in all, have already introduced mandatory face mask wearing. Of course, this helps reduce the spread of the virus.
To reiterate, the phased nationwide lifting of restrictions will only work if everyone acts responsibly. We have one more week to go, and we must definitely preserve the positive trend that we can already see in a number of regions.
Vladimir Putin: In conclusion, I would like to give the floor to Mr Belousov.
Mr Belousov, do you have anything to add, or do you want to sum up what your colleagues said?
Acting Prime Minister Andrei Belousov: Mr President, colleagues,
I can say that as far as the economy is concerned we are entering a phase that will actually be even more challenging. We have granted a reasonably wide range of benefits to most small and medium-sized enterprises in affected sectors, and we have seen over the past two weeks that small businesses have been quite active at using these instruments.
Suffice it to say that more and more companies are taking out payroll loans on preferential terms, with about 2,000 new applications every day. As of the end of April, these applications totalled almost 80 billion rubles. This is a substantial amount that exceeds our initial projections. We see that if this momentum carries on, the limits that we have set will have been reached by mid-May, or after May 20 at the latest.
We can also see that the banks have been overwhelmed, since the number of approved applications has not been growing as quickly as the number of submitted applications lately. I think that this is attributable to technical reasons. I am aware that Sberbank and VTB have been relentless in their efforts, and cancelled many verification procedures they used to follow in ordinary times. Still, there is no doubt that we need to shift into a higher gear on this front.
Do I see any challenges? I fully agree with what you have said on the risk of disruptions in value added and production chains as companies get back to work. This is a challenge. We see two options for dealing with this. The first option is that these deliveries mostly go to large and medium-sized companies from the list of “systemically important” businesses.
I would like to take this opportunity to address the heads of the Russian regions. We sent every region a list of backbone enterprises that fall under their responsibility and are located in the corresponding regions. We asked regions to report on these enterprises twice a week. In these reports, the regions have to tell us to what extent these companies are operating: 30 percent, between 30 to 60 percent or over 60 percent. Right now we need to get this information promptly, so that the Government information centre can sum up these data. With these data, we can see the whole picture, since we understand how these chains operate, but we need to be able to see what is going on and identify the bottlenecks.
Second, since we understand that payments will be the bottleneck, since in these uncertain times many companies will opt for saving money and holding onto it, primarily for paying salaries, we launched a lending programme for financing the working capital. In fact, funds under the programme were depleted before we actually launched it. What I would like to say is that businesses have been filing applications at such a pace that the programme has already reached its limit. The banks granted four loans so far, but judging by the applications the programme has almost ran out of funds. We had to intervene to make some adjustments in order to relegate the interests of the banks into the background, while prioritising the interests of the economy and businesses, above all those from the affected sectors. This all refers to large companies.
I would like to ask the heads of the Russian regions to keep a close eye on this process. I believe that payment arrears currently pose the biggest threat to production chains. The companies’ ability to keep their staff employed and steadily operate will depend on whether we succeed in offsetting payment arrears and defaults.
These are the two points I wanted to make. Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
Colleagues, as you know, in an effort to effectively counter the coronavirus infection, we have introduced restrictions throughout most of Russia’s territory and have transferred considerable authority to the regional governors for obvious reasons. We have a large country, and as I said, the situation varies and so we had to use a case-by-case approach to what is happening in different areas.
Practice shows that we have done the right thing. Moreover, we are seeing that many other countries have followed suit. And it is good if they are also succeeding.
At the same time, I would like to address Mr Belousov as the Acting Prime Minister and our colleagues in the Government and the regions of Russia. We have a State Council working group, which is headed by the Moscow Mayor. However, it is the Government of the Russian Federation that must be in charge of the general coordination of the quarantine measures and of lifting them, and also measures for the economic rebound.
I am hoping that the regions will listen to this and the Government itself will work actively to directly influence the situation both in the economy and the social sphere because we are now moving to a fairly important stage. As I said in my opening remarks, we cannot jump ahead only to fall back again; it is pointless to go around in circles. We must move forward gradually. So, Government coordination is absolutely essential. I am hoping we will work hard together, just as we have been up to now.