The briefing was held after a meeting of the Presidium of the Government Coordination Council to control the incidence of the novel coronavirus infection.
Excerpts from the transcript:
Yevgeny Ditrikh: Good afternoon, colleagues.
In the past ten days, from 20 March until now, 155,000 Russian nationals have returned to Russia; 15,000 of them returned from countries with which air traffic has been limited or restricted due to preventive measures against the coronavirus. Yesterday alone 66 charter flights carrying 8,120 Russian citizens were made from foreign countries.
Given that the number of people returning home is dropping, the number of flights has gone down in the last ten days, as has the number of incoming people. Today, the coordination centre decided to reduce the number of these flights starting tomorrow in order to make it possible to check and record everyone who arrives at airports, given the development of the pandemic situation.
It is important that the Foreign Ministry has completed the list of Russian citizens who will be returning to Russia in the near future. The Foreign Ministry together with us will use these lists when organising flights in the short term and later.
We need to reduce the number of flights at the moment to make it possible to thoroughly check all citizens arriving from abroad, every one of them.
The Foreign Ministry and the airlines will promptly revise the flight schedules. The Foreign Ministry will assist all those who have to stay in other countries while waiting for a flight.
Alexander Neradko: It is true that significant work has been done to return Russians from abroad. They have been brought home from Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Serbia, Montenegro, Moldavia and other regions. This work continues.
Charter flights were planned and executed to evacuate Russians from the Philippines. Another flight is still necessary. Yakutia airlines is currently organising this flight to the Philippines.
We still have to bring Russians home from a small number of countries. It is our understanding that these flights will continue as necessary. But we would like to note that those citizens of Russia and CIS countries who most needed to get home were returned over the course of last week. And so our colleagues from the Foreign Ministry will set the priorities. First, we will continue to evacuate Russians who travelled abroad after 1 January 2020. The next priority will be those who have been temporarily residing in a foreign country (for which they hold a residence permit or citizenship) and are not urgently seeking to return to Russia.
These are the priorities we will set as we proceed with our work. We have also returned people from Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh. You know that we have had no charter flights to these resorts since 2015 due to the high terrorist threat. Our colleagues from Belarus, Belavia airlines, helped us and evacuated more than 1,200 Russians from Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh in seven flights.
We have done a lot of work together with the Foreign Ministry to evacuate people from the United Arab Emirates: over 2,000 have returned.
I would like to thank the flight crews of these Russian airlines and our friends at Belavia as well as foreign airlines, such as Air Moldova and Fly One, for working conscientiously and selflessly despite the difficult situation. A huge thank you to them.
Vitaly Savelyev: I would like to take this opportunity to apologise for the inconvenience to our passengers created by this situation. This goes for all airlines and all the passengers around the world. As we have said, all our flights will go ahead. Please do not worry. Aeroflot and the Aeroflot management continue to work as normal during this challenging time. All of us are at their work places. I would like to join Mr Neradko in thanking our colleagues and our crews: pilots and ground services. We maintain all safety conditions as you can see on board. Your comfort has been and will continue to be our goal. Our flight attendants try to follow all the rules in these difficult conditions. Morale at the company is good. We will get everyone where they are going as scheduled, in full cooperation with the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Transport.
These are difficult times. I am asking our potential passengers who want to return to Russia: when you submit your information to the Foreign Ministry, it is necessary to provide all the details we require, or there will be empty seats on our flights. For example, yesterday we had 2,700 empty seats in total, which is a lot. We could fill these seats with people who want to return to Russia. So if you are thinking about returning to Russia, you have to make up your mind as soon as possible and inform the Foreign Ministry if you change your mind. We arrive and leave without full loads, which is not efficient.
I believe we will make it through this difficult time.
Yevgeny Ditrikh: I also thank everyone who is working conscientiously and selflessly in this challenging time: crews, operators and all the ground and airport service employees that are on duty at a time when the coronavirus is spreading all around the world.
I would like to note that in order to properly coordinate our work it is very important for us that the Foreign Ministry receives all the necessary information in applications from those who want to leave the country where they are residing, for example, whether they have a visa, its expiration date and the destination in Russia they would like to travel to. And the most important thing: contact information for reaching the passenger. This requires special attention given the circumstances, so that we can receive all the necessary information about departure dates and times and possible support measures as quickly as possible.