President Vladimir Putin offered more aid to beleaguered Russians and businesses as he urged them to maintain a shutdown and warned the country is nearing a critical point in the coronavirus epidemic.
“The next 2-3 weeks will be key” to reining in Covid-19, Putin said Wednesday in a televised address to the nation during a meeting of the government’s task force for managing the health crisis. ”For most, being constantly confined by four walls is the definition of dreary and nauseating. But there is no choice now.”
He announced new measures to assist those affected by the shutdown to stop the spread of the infection, including a monthly payment of 3,000 rubles ($40) per child to families whose breadwinners have lost their jobs. He also promised state aid to companies which refrain from lay-offs, and pledged government support to those who do lose their jobs.
Authorities in Moscow on March 30 required the capital’s almost 13 million inhabitants to stay at home apart from essential workers. Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin quickly told other Russian regions to follow suit. Putin last week extended an order for most Russians to observe a non-working period until April 30, though on Tuesday he asked his scientific advisers whether he could shorten its length.
The assistance Putin has announced to date pales in comparison to some spending packages around the globe, with ING Bank estimating that his support measures only amount to about 2% of gross domestic product. Sergei Guriev, the former chief economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, said Russia should be spending around 10% of GDP.
Russia on Wednesday recorded 1,175 new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, taking the total to 8,672, with 63 fatalities, according to official data. While the numbers of those infected are far below the worst-afflicted countries, such as the U.S., France, Italy and Spain, Covid-19 continues to spread rapidly.
“Self-isolation is a test that we must withstand,” Putin told Russians in his address. “Achieving the turning point in our fight against the infection depends on our discipline and responsibility, and we must succeed.”
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