The meeting of the emergency response centre was held on 26 February 2020.
Excerpts from the transcript:
Tatyana Golikova: Good afternoon, colleagues. Today’s meeting of the emergency response centre is over. First of all, we had to decide on the feasibility of extending the restrictions that are in effect until 1 March 2020 and relate to the land border, flights and various other bans. Second, we had to discuss the feasibility of taking additional measures in connection with the spread of the new coronavirus in 39 countries of the world.
The emergency response centre has taken the following decisions.
We are extending until 1 April all the restrictions that are in effect until 1 March. Tomorrow the responsible federal executive authorities will submit the relevant regulatory documents for signature to the Prime Minister. The same applies to restrictions on hosting international events. Let me remind you that we extended the university winter break for students from the People's Republic of China until 1 March. But since it was later decided to put restrictions on student visas, today we also discussed online education arrangements. The Minister of Science and Higher Education reported that such an education option is available at most higher education institutions, and received an additional instruction – to fully assess the situation so that we can ensure the right of Chinese students to study at Russian universities, but through an online format.
Regarding additional measures, in the light of the available and incoming information about the situation in South Korea, Iran and Italy, we separately evaluated measures which the Russian Federation could take in this connection and decided that from midnight on 1 March we will suspend all South Korea flights except those operated by Aeroflot and its subsidiary Aurora. Aurora will run charter flights until all Russian citizens are brought back from the Republic of Korea. Aeroflot will continue service to Moscow, and citizens arriving from the Republic of Korea will also pass through Terminal F at Sheremetyevo Airport.
As for Iran, starting at midnight on 28 February we will stop issuing transit visas to those travelling from Iran as well as other visas, except for business and humanitarian ones. Flights, operated only by one Russian company, Aeroflot, and by Iranian companies, continue. We will monitor the situation.
for the Italian Republic,
taking into consideration that the country is a member of the European Union,
it is difficult to take any restrictive measures or keep track of people who
travel between the Russian Federation
and the Italian Republic. We strongly recommend that the
Federal Agency for Tourism, the Foreign Ministry and accordingly, the
Government emergency response centre warn our citizens and tour operators
against both solo travel and tour group travel to the Italian Republic.
The northern regions of Italy
are the most affected, but at present no one can thoroughly assess the
situation and how it will develop. So for the time being, we strongly advise
against trips, but we will closely monitor what is going on. Passengers who
arrive from Iran will also
Terminal F at Sheremetyevo Airport.
These are the steps we have taken regarding additional restrictions. I would like to ask Anna Popova to give an update on the measures that we have already taken and what exactly we are doing domestically about the epidemic.
Anna Popova: Thank you very much, Ms Golikova. All the measures are being coordinated by and implemented by decision of the situations centre. Russia was one of the first countries to enhance sanitary screening and quarantine requirements. We did this at the start of the year, or to be more precise, on the last day of last year. I am referring to the double temperature screening of incoming passengers. Over that period of time, we managed to screen over 3 million people, including 373,000 passengers coming from China. In other words, we have redoubled the control requirements for all international travellers.
Based on these measures, 31,000 people were monitored; the current figure is 8,165 people. This tight control helped us to diagnose two Chinese citizens with COVID-19. I would like to point out that Russian experts created a national screening system very quickly, within a matter of five days, and soon afterwards they created a second, double screening system for detecting people with COVID and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). These diagnostic test systems have been delivered to all the Russian regions and all Rospotrebnadzor labs.
To date, we have conducted over 150,000 tests, which helped us to diagnose two people with the virus; they did recover and were released some time ago now. In other words, the consistency of measures being taken all across Russia and on the border… As Ms Golikova mentioned, we had to close the land border with China, which we did on 23 January, and after that it was decided that arrivals from China would be only directed to Terminal F at Sheremetyevo and that only one Russian company would be allowed to make such flights. We are acting in the same manner in response to the worsening situation in other countries, as Ms Golikova said.
I would like to add that we are working closely with the WHO and our Chinese colleagues. Our delegation made a working visit to China to see how our colleagues are working and to try out our test system, which demonstrated excellent results. Our Chinese colleagues praised our test systems, which can be stored safely at +4°C, whereas most test systems created in other countries must be stored at around -20°C. This is why we can easily transport our test systems and produce them in large quantities.
We are working closely with our CIS and EAEU colleagues as well, interacting on a frequent basis and holding videoconferences every other week to share our experience in fighting the coronavirus epidemic. At the same time, we supply coronavirus test systems to our colleagues if they request them, because it is extremely difficult to correctly diagnose people otherwise. We are closely monitoring the spread of the flu, acute respiratory viral infections and pneumonia in Russia. The peak flu season is already over in Russia, and the rate of community-acquired pneumonia is declining. The rate of pneumonia was not any higher than the long-term yearly average and at any rate not higher than last year. At the same time, since pneumonia is among the main complications of the new coronavirus disease, over a period of the past two weeks pneumonia patients in large cities, primarily Moscow, were additionally tested for coronavirus. It is a must. This method is being used in all other Russian cities starting as of this week. Absolutely all pneumonia patients must be tested for the new coronavirus.
We have added the coronavirus test to the flu monitoring system applied to flu patients with acute respiratory syndrome. Some 12,000 patients will be additionally tested for coronavirus every week, which shows that we are increasing the density of monitoring measures in the country so that nothing escapes us, even though the control measures were quite strict before as well.
I would like to add that the efforts being taken by our researchers have been highly assessed by WHO experts and the international research community. The VECTOR research centre has been added to the international list of reference centres that are working on new coronavirus diagnosis and prevention and treatment medicine.
Furthermore, we have tested our healthcare facilities for readiness to deal with the new virus. This was done on instructions of the situations centre, which had also issued preparation algorithms. But we must now revise our requirements to disease monitoring and supervision of the healthcare facilities’ readiness to implement these measures.
Tatyana Golikova has already said that 39 countries have confirmed cases of new coronavirus, and so it is obvious – and we must admit this – that the possibility of the infection spreading to Russia has increased. Therefore, the readiness of our healthcare facilities, and first of all the people, to protect their health… The people should above all take preventive measures, such as, avoid planning or cancel trips to the countries with a coronavirus risk.
Since the number of such countries is increasing every day, and this will likely continue for some time in light of the epidemic situation around the world, I would say that such trips should be made only when it is absolutely impossible to do otherwise. In all other cases, it would be better to remain in the country so as to protect your health. This is the first thing.
Second, preventive measures must be taken just as in the event of many other infections. We can say confidently now that the virus is transmitted through the air, as well as, most likely, by the faecal-oral route through dirty hands and contaminated water. This makes a personal hygiene routine absolutely indispensable: clean hands, clean tableware, and strict compliance with all the rules. Wash your face and hands, clean your gadgets and other surfaces in your flats, primarily personal items, children’s toys, etc. At the very start of the epidemic, we issued instructions on enhancing disinfection measures in public transport, public catering establishments and congested places, and we monitored compliance with these instructions. I am confident that responsible people in our country are acting on these instructions. The main demand to all of us is to protect our health by complying with simple rules which everyone knows. The flu season is declining, but it is not over quite yet. These rules will help people protect their health from both acute respiratory viral infections and flu.
Question: Sofia Alexeyeva, TASS. Ms Golikova, we know what measures are being taken to regulate relations with other countries. To what extent are Russian regions prepared to provide aid to those who may fall ill, included among newcomers?
Tatiana Golikova: I would like to note that two cases have been recorded. In addition, the passengers from the Diamond Princess whom we brought from Japan. We are witnessing this, and Anna Popova has also mentioned this. Our measures, that had been undertaken including those implemented by the entire healthcare system and its regional divisions, have produced results. This is the first thing.
Second, Russian regions made the decision to appoint officials in charge of this work after the command centre started operating. Each region without exception approved a regional plan in line with the national plan. They are now acting in accordance with these regional plans and closely coordinating their work with the Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor) and epidemiologists.
The disease is affecting more and more countries, and the new coronavirus infection can penetrate the Russian Federation via many different routes. Therefore we are once again noting the readiness of the regions and the primary healthcare system to respond quickly if patients with certain symptoms contact them. The participants in today’s meeting at the command centre agreed to once again instruct the Ministry of Healthcare, Rospotrebnadzor and our regional colleagues to reassess their systems. They may be facing some shortages or they may need extra funding or some other assistance, including methodological assistance, in order to organise this work correctly. But I would like to say that the healthcare system is absolutely prepared, as proved by the signatures of every regional leader.
Question: Dmitry Pomelnikov, Izvestia. Ms Golikova, you have already said that it is very hard to control the spread of the coronavirus infection in Europe because Italy is a member of the European Union. The media has reported today that the affected countries include Italy, Croatia, Austria and Switzerland, and some cases have already been recorded in France…
Tatiana Golikova: France was already among those included in the list.
Question: How should Russia act in the future if this terrible virus starts spreading all over Europe? It is impossible to suspend all flights to and from Europe. What measures can be implemented to limit the spread of this virus to Russia?
Tatiana Golikova: I would like to say once again that the Russian Federation has already implemented all measures for preventing this, and it will continue to do this. The work of all services, and not just epidemiological and healthcare services, aims to accomplish this task. Everyone is working on this, including our border guards, employees of aviation services, etc. I can tell you that we have activated all available resources, and everyone is responsible for his or her sphere of work. And I can tell you that the command centre has been working hard for over a month. We have established an efficient system of collaboration and a system for informing everyone about possible developments.
I am sure you remember last week’s situation with Bryansk, when the emergency services in the Bryansk Region quickly apprehended a Chinese national travelling on the Moscow-Kiev train. That decision was made by authorities in the Bryansk Region, and not in Moscow. This is the first thing.
Second, as I have already said at one of the briefings, the Russian Federation has approved a national action plan in such situations. What does this mean? This step-by-step plan stipulates certain actions in certain situations when the number of cases increases in line with pre-set patterns. There is an algorithm of actions, approved by the Prime Minister, for every scenario; regional plans have now been approved in line with this algorithm, and they are being implemented.
I would like to repeat what Anna Popova said earlier: fortunately, the new coronavirus infection has not spread here so far. We have detected only isolated cases, and that means that we don’t need to launch the next stage of implementing the national plan. So far, we are responding as if this was ordinary flu. Understandably, we have boosted our capabilities, but we are implementing similar measures.
Question: Channel One, Yulia Onishchenko. Have you discussed the issue of the tourists who want to travel to those countries? Perhaps you have some recommendations for the people who are going to visit the countries with such cases.
Tatyana Golikova: Colleagues, as Ms Popova has already said, we strongly recommend that people do not travel to the countries with cases of the new coronavirus infection, unless it is absolutely necessary. As we have said time and again, the People’s Republic of China, South Korea, Iran and Italy are especially dangerous. The situation may change tomorrow. Let me repeat: don’t travel to those countries if it is not strictly necessary, stay at home. It’s calmer and safer at home and we can help if necessary.
Question: Lyudmila Belonozhko, RIA Novosti. Has Russia obtained a strain of the coronavirus? Has the Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare developed proposals on increasing liability for breaching the quarantine?
Tatyana Golikova: We have obtained the strain. Our state research centre, which is also a world-level genetic centre (the status it received last year), is working very hard to develop a vaccine. I will not reveal a great secret by saying that VECTOR has already developed five prototypes of the vaccine, but clearly this work is still at an early stage. Our colleagues are working hard on this. We will inform you when we have more specific results.
We are working on increasing liability, but Russia has taken no harsh or drastic measures so far, unlike some countries.
Question: Could you specify whether you have received the strain from China or it was extracted here, in Russia?
Tatyana Golikova: No, not from China.
Question: RNS news agency. Ms Golikova, are the dates of the Russian Investment Forum in Sochi being discussed or will it be cancelled?
Tatyana Golikova: This is not being discussed yet.
Question: Bloomberg. Are you discussing postponing the St Petersburg Forum because of the coronavirus?
Tatyana Golikova: We are not discussing this yet.
Question: And the second question. What will the next stage be according to the national plan? How many cases do there need to be for Russia to launch the next stage: the introduction of the quarantine?
Tatyana Golikova: What is important here is not so much the number as the contact infection spread; this mostly depends on it.
Anna Popova: We will monitor the situation and introduce the next stages if necessary. But this does not depend on the absolute numbers.
Tatyana Golikova: If there is contact infection spread, from human to human, then we will discuss the launch of the next stage.
Question: Alexei Kurilov, Interfax. We have evacuated Russian nationals from the Diamond Princess. At least three of them are infected, and we have probably researched...
Anna Popova: I would like to remind everyone that, first, we have evacuated all Russian nationals from Hainan Island. It was a special operation, there were 4,650 people and everyone was examined and observed over the course of two weeks, and there were no additional risks. We have evacuated 144 people from Wuhan aboard two planes, and not just Russians. We ensured safe observation for everyone who came into contact with them, and for them as well, of course, during two weeks and provided medical aid when it was necessary, minimising all the biological and epidemiologic risks. We have also evacuated Russian nationals from Japan…
Tatyana Golikova: Those who wanted to travel aboard this plane.
Anna Popova: Yes, there were 24 Russians aboard the plane, with 21 of them hospitalised in Russia at medical centres specialising in infectious diseases. Eight patients, including those three who were diagnosed with the new coronavirus infection in Japan, and members of their families were hospitalised and brought to Kazan. The diagnoses of three patients were diagnosed using several special virological methods, and today they remain under observation. However, I would like to say that all 21 patients feel well (19, to be exact: two more, a woman and her husband, remain at a Japanese clinic after an appendectomy, so we do not include them in the group of people suspected of having the coronavirus). Let me repeat: all of them feel well, their temperature is normal, and nobody has shown any clinical symptoms, including those diagnosed with the new coronavirus infection.