Measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in Russia and reduce its impact on the economy.
Excerpt from Mikhail Mishustin’s opening remarks:
Good morning, colleagues.
Before we start with today’s agenda, I would like to say a few words about the issue that is of greatest concern for the public today: the coronavirus response.
Many people are just beginning to realise the whole gravity of the situation. But there are no reasons to panic. Russia has successful experience in fighting epidemics both within the country and in the world. And we will tackle this threat.
The President has established a State Council working group specifically for countering this infection. As you know, the Government has also set up a coordination council.
Today the Government issued a statement to report on the action that is already being taken and on further steps.
We are taking proactive measures to prevent the mass spread of the coronavirus in our country and reduce its effects on the economy. All these measures are circumspect, thoroughly discussed and coordinated at all levels. And we will continue to act promptly and vigorously. But a lot depends on our own attitude and how responsible we are about our own health and the health of our loved ones. Therefore, it is necessary to restrict all contacts as much as possible and call a doctor if symptoms develop.
I am sure that the measures being taken by the President, the Government and regional authorities, as well as our people’s personal responsibility and mutual support will help us to overcome the coronavirus infection.
A federal system of monitoring this dangerous disease has been created, along with measures to prevent it from spreading. All the necessary instructions have been issued. Colleagues, the majority of them must be implemented this week. I would like to ask you to submit the necessary documents to the Government, or more precisely, to the Government’ Executive Office, without any delay whatsoever – within 24 hours, and to forward them to me for signing within the same period of time.
Of course, it is also absolutely crucial to speedily implement these decisions in the regions and municipalities. I have issued instructions for the federal bodies of power and the regions to create departmental response headquarters and to approve standard plans of emergency measures, which have been prepared and distributed in the regions.
We have suspended the entry of foreigners from all countries, excluding some categories of persons.
On 20 March, we will temporarily suspend passenger flights to Britain, the United States and the United Arab Emirates. However, there will still be flights to London, New York and Dubai.
Charter flights will be kept in place to transport the citizens of these countries out of Russia and to bring Russian citizens back home.
Those returning to Russia will be requested to undergo sanitary and quarantine screening. We will subsequently continue to monitor their health, as well as the health of those they came into contact with.
The restrictive measures being taken in Russia will be adjusted depending on the epidemiological situation in other countries exclusively to protect the health of our citizens.
We are introducing temporary rules for remotely issuing quarantined people with sick leave notes and sick pay. We are doing this to help our citizens and to preserve their incomes.
Those who fall ill will receive comprehensive assistance. We have enough beds in isolation wards, as well as pulmonary ventilation devices. If necessary, their numbers can be increased. We have a stock of medicines and personal protective gear. Our medical facilities are ready for any scenario.
Those who provide non-inpatient care as well as medical assistance to persons with suspected or confirmed coronavirus disease must receive decent remuneration. As per the President’s instructions, we have created a financial reserve of 10 billion roubles for the Healthcare Ministry to provide benefits to the doctors and other medical staff fighting the coronavirus. We will also allocate 1.6 billion roubles from the Government’s reserve fund for benefits to the Rospotrebnadzor personnel who are working virtually 24/7.
We have also launched the manufacturing of test kits and have organised the testing of all those who come to Russia from the affected countries and those with whom they had close contact. A reserve of 700,000 test kits has been created and will be regularly replenished. We will deliver test kits to all the Russian regions and ensure that the logistics are improved on a daily basis. The lab test results will be stored in a centralised databank.
The regions have been instructed to ensure compliance with the epidemic regime at educational organisations, including by converting them to remote online education and work.
A few words about the economic side of things. We have taken a number of coherent measures to reduce the negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic. We have created a financial reserve of 300 billion roubles and a loan guarantee fund for restructuring companies in trouble. We will be working with the Central Bank to reduce volatility on the stock market and we will be taking other measures to normalise the situation.
I have approved a plan of emergency measures to ensure sustainable economic development. It is not unlike a crisis plan and includes a package of emergency measures necessary to maintain the stability of socioeconomic development. We will be providing support above all to the industries in trouble, but first of all we will help the people and ensure the provision of basic necessities to them. What does this mean?
First, tomorrow the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Federal Taxation Service, the Statistics Service and the Government’s Communications Centre will start monitoring prices in every region and every retail and pharmacy chain. The monitoring will cover groceries, children’s products, medicine and medical goods, as well as disinfectant and personal protection equipment. Retail chains must have sufficient reserves of these things. They must also make reports confirming this to us. With this aim in view, the Finance Ministry, the Economic Development Ministry and the Ministry of Industry and Trade will promptly create the relevant mechanism. Shops will be given access to easy loans if this is necessary for creating these reserves.
As of tomorrow, for the duration of one month, all restrictions, including customs restrictions, will be lifted on the supply of essential commodities. We are introducing a “green corridor” for importers and large retail networks. No customs duty will be levied on a number of goods including medicines and medical equipment.
Our industry must step up output and increase the production of medical items which are currently in high demand. The Healthcare Ministry must establish a simplified and faster registration procedure. As agreed, the Ministry of Industry and Trade must provide the Government with a schedule giving details of the daily output of masks and other individual protective gear with a view to new production facilities being launched. We will monitor their availability online. To this end, we are establishing a unified data centre where information on each region will be collected.
Second, we have simplified online selling of over-the-counter medicines and medical items. Tighter controls will be introduced on their turnover so as to prevent counterfeit products being supplied under cover by rogue suppliers. We must keep a close watch to prevent such occurrences.
Third, a weekly operational monitoring of the labour market across the country will be conducted. We must have the entire picture of employment in every region, especially in one-industry towns which are most susceptible in this respect. Social benefits to the registered unemployed must be paid in full and on time. We will help the regions if needed.
Fourth, the distressed sectors of the economy will be given tax deferrals. I have already issued an instruction to provide such a deferral to the tourism business and air carriers by 1 May.
In addition, we have taken a decision to relieve tour operators of the need to pay fees to the Tour Aid association’s reserve fund. The Ministry of Economic Development, together with Finance and Transport Ministries and Rostourism, will shortly draft a procedure to compensate tour operators for losses, which are related to non-refundable air tickets.
Fifth, a special emphasis has been placed on supporting small and medium-sized businesses. They employ millions of people and they face an equally complicated situation. This is why, starting in March, a three-month deferral is being introduced on insurance contributions as well as a temporary deferral of rents for lessees of state-owned or municipal properties. Also, a moratorium is being introduced on inspections of SME businesses, including tax and customs inspections. Soft lending programmes have been expanded for such businesses as have possibilities for restructuring existing loan agreements at affordable rates. Accordingly, the volume of allocated subsidies has been increased as well as the capitalisation of regional micro financial entities to provide a maximum number of SME businesses with soft lending.
Sixth, regional budgets are experiencing a big strain now. We will constantly monitor the situation and will expand support measures if necessary.
Under the circumstances, we must work closely with all branches of authority, including the State Duma. Deputies came forward with a draft law that would expand the powers of the Government regarding allocation of extra funds to combat the coronavirus. It is expected to pass the first reading today, and we appreciate such support. It will allow the Government to respond to developments more flexibly and quickly, increase the reserve fund in due time and direct the funds to where they are needed most without amending the budget.
Colleagues, the coronavirus pandemic is forcing
countries throughout the world to introduce an increasing number of restrictive
measures to limit the spread of the disease. It has a grave
effect on economic activity, the global financial and stock markets and the commodity
markets. It also has
a significant impact on the situation in Russia.
Early this week, the Government and the Bank of Russia, as you may know, declared measures to ensure the stability of economic development and reduce the negative impact on Russian citizens.
We are focusing on three key priorities: ensuring financial stability, maintaining the resilience of industries and economic sectors, and supporting the population and the regions.
We have promised that in case of need, the package of measures we are implementing will be expanded.
Today, the Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Russia have announced a new mode of operations on the currency market. The financial regulator will compensate the currency market for a fall in currency revenues if the price of Urals oil drops below $25 per barrel. This will enable an increase in the currency supply and make it more predictable regardless of the situation on the global oil and gas markets.
The Government and the Bank of Russia will continue to take measures as necessary to ensure financial stability.