Putin orders bonuses for 'frontline' Russia virus medics

Putin used full protective gear during a visit last month to a hospital treating coronavirus patients

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday announced bonuses to health care workers on "the frontline" of the country's fight against the coronavirus.

Putin included the payments among several new measures to support Russians during the epidemic after health officials reported more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases.

The president urged the public to be patient with lockdown restrictions to help slow the spread of the virus.

"For most people, to be inside four walls is dreary and miserable," he acknowledged during a video call with regional governors.

"A breakthrough in battling the infection will depend on our discipline and responsibility."

The country is realising how crucial the work of nurses and doctors is "for the first time in decades", said Putin, promising 10 billion rubles ($132 million) for monthly bonuses to health care staff nationwide.

Doctors treating coronavirus patients would receive an additional 80,000 rubles ($1,059) per month, while nurses, ambulance medics and drivers would get from 25,000 to 50,000 rubles.

"These specialists are on the front line," said Putin, who also ordered an increase in the worker's state insurance to a level afforded to members of the armed forces.

Russia reported 1,175 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 8,672. The epicentre of the epidemic is Moscow, with 5,841 cases.

So far, Russia has recorded only 63 deaths however.

Putin also announced the allocation of funds for Russian regions to provide more hospital beds and medical equipment.

He said 33 billion rubles had been set aside for "specialised, fully equipped" beds in hospitals and infection wards. Another 13 billion rubles was allocated for equipment including ventilators and ambulances.

Putin said he hoped the additional capacity would not be needed but cautioned that "we must be ready to fight for the life of every person in every region."

As they prepare for a spike in coronavirus cases, Moscow authorities are rushing to complete construction of a 500-bed facility for coronavirus patients styled on a hospital built in China.

During his meeting with the heads of Russia's regions, which are mostly under strict lockdown, Putin urged the governors not to disrupt local economies by implementing unnecessary measures.

"The economy cannot be stopped," Putin said. "We must understand what damage, what devastating consequences this can lead to.

"Now we need to establish the conditions for companies, organisations and entrepreneurs to return to their normal work schedule," he said

To help small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs), Putin proposed deferring insurance payments and restructuring their debt.

He also gave the central bank five days to come up with other measures to support such companies.

As the pandemic hit Russia, the Kremlin introduced breaks on consumer loans and mortgage payments, support for SMEs and early payouts of social benefits.

Putin said Wednesday that Russians made unemployed after March would receive the upper limit of jobless benefits in April, May and June and announced new payouts for families with young children.

Putin used full protective gear during a visit last month to a hospital treating coronavirus patients