The briefing focused on gradual lifting of restrictions in the field of culture and sports.
Excerpts from the transcript:
Question: Mr Chernyshenko, last week it was announced that the tourist sector is going to start working again and there were also recommendations on resuming activities in the sphere of culture and sports. Does this mean that we are returning back to normal? What measures is the Government taking so that cultural and sports activities can go ahead again?
Dmitry Chernyshenko: Today we have all the reasons to believe that the situation regarding the coronavirus is stable and under control, with a clear decreasing trend in the number of cases. The number of those who have been infected has remained at about 9,000 or less per day for about 14 days now. But the main thing is that the number of those who have been released from hospitals is on the rise; on some days it is significantly higher than the number of new cases. For example, today it accounts for more than 11,000: the absolute record. My congratulations to everyone, this is a good trend. This means the healthcare system has survived the peak load and has a growing safety factor.
Now 35 Russian regions are ready to start lifting the restrictions and to begin the first phase of this process. Seven regions are going to the second phase.
As you know, the development of a vaccine is underway; we are waiting for the results. Experts say that if it is successful, mass vaccinating can start in the autumn. However, for now we must learn how to live with the risks of the infection.
Cultural and sporting public events were the first to be cancelled during the pandemic. We know that these sectors were the most hard-hit. Today 320,000 sporting facilities remain closed and 573 events involving our national teams, including 49 international events were cancelled. Almost 20,000 professional athletes had no chance to train. In amateur sports, restrictions concerned over three million athletes and almost 95,000 coaches.
Closing and restrictions were placed on almost all cultural institutions: theatres, cinemas, museums, libraries, concert halls, film studios and circuses. Producer organisations suffered many losses due to the cancellation or postponement of their activities.
The Government has adopted a set of measures to support culture and sports, first of all backbone organisations; 59 of them have already been included. Work is underway to include another 49 on the list.
The list includes leaders in the sphere of cinema and restoration as well as sports clubs and fitness centre networks. A special government commission is examining the possibility of adding to the list of theatres, museums, concert organisations and philharmonic societies. We also focus on financing zoos. I am asking Olga Lyubimova to elaborate on this.
Non-profit organisations implementing social projects will also receive support. The Sports Ministry register contains 87 such organisations, including 55 national sports federations.
The Government has already allocated 3.8 billion roubles to support cultural institutions. This work is ongoing. At present, we are developing additional measures.
We have come up with “road maps” that will help people to return back to a normal way of life. They include a stage-by-stage approach to lifting restrictions. In working out these measures in all sectors we applied a common basic approach: gradual opening up of segments accompanied by the strict observation of the epidemiological safety standards. And most important of all is permanent monitoring, to be able to slam on the brakes in due time.
The epidemiological situation in the regions is different, so the time for reopening cultural and sports facilities will also be different. Governors are to take these decisions independently being guided by the established rules. However, we do know that sport is a universal language of communications. We are giving special attention to resuming the life of sports in all its aspects: high-performance sports, mass sports, amateur sports and healthy lifestyle in general.
As early as at the first stage we are returning the possibility of physical training and doing sports outdoors. Thirty-five regions are already at this stage. And an important aspect is the reopening of fitness centres and sports schools at the first stage. We know that fitness centres have already resumed working in Chelyabinsk, Ulyanovsk (schools), Sakhalin Region and in many other regions – also strictly following the rigid rules, thus far new and maybe unusual. We expect that not only management and personnel but also those who go in for sports – coaches and athletes – will exercise discipline.
In professional sports their federations jointly with the Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare are to work out their decisions. It should be taken into account that various sports and events have various specific features. Athletes may engage in individual training as early as the first stage, and at the second one they will be able to train in groups and hold competitions. So far, largely without fans.
Our country is especially keen on football and national cup competitions. Football will return to our life of 19 June when the Premier League matches will be resumed. Ice hockey and basketball are to return already in August. The Russian Premier League together with the Russian Football Union have done considerable work and today they confirm their readiness to provide safety for both the athletes and fans. And at this stage it was agreed to open the stadiums for the Premier League games; for the present, with a minimal number of spectators – up to 10 percent of the stadium’s capacity – nevertheless, it will be a real match with the support of fans, which brings back the emotional atmosphere so typical for football. Yet, since the restrictions will be in place on the number of people in the stadium, we are going to do our very best to let as many people as possible watch these matches via our free federal television channels.
During the third stage we will resume holding tournaments and national cup competitions, without any limitations on spectator numbers. I also mean international competitions in Russia, because currently international travelling is restricted for safety reasons.
Culture will also gradually return to normal life with strict observance of safety measures. As I said, each region will have its own date, depending on the epidemiological situation. Museums have already begun to work, and will open their doors for visitors in mid-July. The preparatory phase will last 1.5 months. I mean individual visits.
We pay special attention to older people. They are still working remotely – by the way, many of them are taking digital literacy courses – and we are certainly waiting for the opportunity to bring them back to offices.
As for cinemas and especially theatres, the audience really misses their favourite actors. Here we must ensure the strictest compliance with anti-virus safety measures, including special seating capacity, the use of personal protective equipment, and distancing. Cinemas can reopen as early as mid-July. There will also be special seating rules.
Theatres and concert halls, just as all around the world, are to open during the last stage of lifting restrictions. We expect that they will delight us with new plays in the autumn, and we know that theatres will also have a rehearsal period.
I want to note that cultural institutions were among the first to respond to restrictions, using the experience and opportunities that the digital space provides to grow their audience. Культура.рф (Kultura.rf) became the central platform. In the end, despite the crisis and restrictions, the audience of theatrical plays and concerts greatly expanded. New technologies allowed this audience to become truly global, and I hope that when theatres and concert halls open, this online audience will remain just as large.
Also, it is worth saying that the construction and reconstruction of cultural and sports facilities has resumed or will resume soon. Now 260 sports facilities are under construction, 200 of which are to be completed this year. Work is also underway to renovate or overhaul 432 cultural facilities.
Of course, we are looking forward to returning
to normal life, and all the conditions are in place to do so, but nevertheless
I want to once again note that it is our responsibility, our job to ease the
restrictions in a correct, controlled manner. Together we achieved a great deal
at the great cost of the restrictions and the dedicated work of our medical
workers, so self-discipline is most important now. We have a lot of crucial
work ahead, and I am sure that we will cope with it.
Question: Ms Lyubimova, as we can see the exact date when cultural institutions reopen will depend on a region’s decision. Nevertheless, the phases of work resumption of theatres and museums are the same for the entire country. Maybe you would care to elaborate on this, please?
Olga Lyubimova: We are working on all the measures we will have to have approved by Rospotrebnadzor together with the professional community. This is a very meticulous job, because this is the first time we have ever had such a situation. Of course, we have been keeping in touch with our foreign colleagues. We understand that we have to consider international experience for our tours and foreign specialists’ work at our theatres to continue.
At the same time it is clear that they have their own specifics there. It was rightly said that every region is specific due to the epidemiologic situation. Of course, we will take everything I just mentioned into account.
About six weeks are needed for a museum to re-open. Right now we will hold fire for a while with the usual group tours for schoolchildren and tourists that they have been looking forward to. First of all, we will focus on individual tourists because we have to ensure the safety of every visitor at our museums. We have to disinfect all the rooms and every space. We understand that one visitor must remain two metres away from another. We must place sanitisers in each room and manage the tourist flows in a way to keep them at a distance from one another.
The situation is a bit different for theatres. Summer is the time of holidays. It is a little easier today because companies go on holiday. During this time, directors and producers discuss and plan the repertoire their theatres will present in September. We will receive Rospotrebnadzor’s last instructions on theatres in August, when we will have a clear understanding of what is going on. But even now, based on the principles Rospotrebnadzor has approved for cinemas, we understand that individual seating which upset theatre directors and future visitors most, envisages a way for couples and families to be seated next to each other in the theatre.
Now the theatre managers are working on their repertoires. We need to see with what performances and advertisements we will begin in September. Companies are taking a break now. In August, they will begin to work again, rehearse and, of course, restore our unique assets.
Question: The coronavirus pandemic has become a grave challenge for the sports sector. How will sports be reinstated into our life? How will our professional athletes resume their training sessions?
Oleg Matytsin: It goes without saying that the pandemic has exerted a very negative impact on physical training and sports. But these difficult conditions enabled us to unite. Sport is exactly the one sphere of activity which shows positive examples of human behaviour in a challenging environment.
In effect, we did not stop training, including that of professional athletes. And we tried hard, so that the example of Russian athletes would motivate the people of this country to exercise at home, too.
The Ministry of Sports has initiated a programme called Train at Home: Sports as a Way of Life. It involved tens of thousands of athletes and coaches. As I see it, this movement, of course, helped many people to hold out in these conditions. I hope that these online training sessions will positively influence people after the adaptation period ends.
It is vital that athletes, including members of the Boxing Federation, helped retired athletes and senior citizens through the volunteer movement.
Our best chess players held a charitable tournament whose entire proceeds were used to support our medical workers who essentially are displaying heroism in the fight against the coronavirus.
Sports are gradually returning back into our lives. And we can see that these three stages, mentioned by Mr Chernyshenko, with due consideration for Rospotrebnadzor recommendations, are already being implemented in virtually all the regions of the Russian Federation. Fitness centres and sports schools are already open again. I would like to note that sports schools and junior-league sports are among our priorities. Quite possibly, this is the most important aspect of our activities because the future of this country depends on children, their health and their motivation to engage in sports.
We have devoted and continue to devote substantial attention to our work with the regions. Here is an example of resuming our customary life. Two days ago now, Mikhail Pasynkov set a Nordic walking record in Udmurtia. He walked 134 kilometres in 24 hours. This is a new Russian record in this field.
We are focusing on our cooperation with the sports federations while training our national teams. Under the President’s recommendations, on 25 May we already reopened sports facilities in Novogorsk and near Lake Krugloye. In June, there are plans to reopen four other federal facilities in other regions. These training sessions will involve over 1,000 participants, including over 800 people specialising in summer sports and over 200 winter sports enthusiasts. Over 100 Paralympic athletes will start training in normal conditions.
We are also paying attention to the operation of regional facilities because we realise that the federal facilities are unable to provide all the required opportunities for athletes. In the month of June, regional sports training facilities will reopen in ten Russian regions. I therefore hope that we are really getting back to our normal way of life, and this is a highly important example for the entire sports community and for all residents of this country.
Question: Ms Lyubimova, Russian circuses and zoos, including private ones, found themselves in a very difficult situation due to the spread of the coronavirus infection. Does the state support them in any way?
Olga Lyubimova: Yes. First, it is worth recalling that circuses, zoos, oceanariums and dolphinariums were included in the list of the most affected industries. These are medium-sized and small businesses that can count on appropriate support measures. A separate task is to inform them how this can be done. People faced such difficulties for the first time, and our task is to help them, including with information. Moreover, these businesses have lost income, since there are no events, ticket sales or visitors. Thus, in the shortest possible time (here we must thank the regions that helped us work this out), the Ministry of Culture created a register of private zoos and circuses. We know that there are 45 circuses and 61 zoos – 106 organisations in total. We managed to analyse and calculate all the lost income. The corresponding documents were sent to the Government – we will discuss possible support measures in this area so that we no longer encounter a similar problem.
Question: You already talked about the stages of cultural institutions’ return to normal life. But at the same time, it is known that many older people are involved and work in this area. Will they lose their jobs due to the circumstances?
Olga Lyubimova: We can perfectly understand the people who are concerned about this issue because we know that older people are the backbone of Russian theatre companies. We know the great contribution older people make to education in our wonderful theatre universities, in our children’s art schools. We know how many older people work in Russian museums, in Russian theatres and, as I already mentioned, in Russian libraries. And of course, Russian culture is impossible without our masters.
As part of our work with Rospotrebnadzor, we are developing measures so that these people are the last to return to our institutions.
Question: Fans are looking forward to the resumption of Russian football championship. Can you describe in more detail how the championship will be organised? What other competitions are expected to be held soon?
Oleg Matytsin: The organisation and holding of competitions is certainly one of the main tasks of the Ministry of Sport because they are the most striking example and element of sports activity, and not just for athletes but also for spectators and the media. Sport generates very good feelings that we have been deprived of during the pandemic.
I believe the resumption of the Russian Premier League Championship is our common victory – of the Government and the Russian Football Union with support from Rospotrebnadzor. We will recommend this pattern to other team sports because it has shown the efficiency of the integration and prompt cooperation of all interested parties. The championship will resume on 19 June. The 23rd round will take place on 19-21 June since 22 rounds were held in March. Of course, the competitions were suspended. We will comply with all of Rospotrebnadzor requirements. Naturally, the health of the athletes, coaches, service personnel and spectators is extremely important. For now, spectator presence in the stadium will be limited, but I hope our fans will understand. The very resumption of the championship is a very positive impetus for everyone. And, of course, the broadcasting of the championship on TV, and not just Match TV, will allow millions of fans to enjoy this important resumption of sports activity.
Let me note once again that all safety measures at the entry to the stadium will be carried out. Masks and gloves will be mandatory in the stadium. This is a requirement for now. No food will be allowed. Only water will be okay.
In addition, we are planning to resume the championship in accordance with the Russian sports calendar, and the world’s first multisport event is expected to be held in Kazan in the first ten days of September. These are the games of the CIS countries, in which over 2,500 athletes from 11 states will compete in 21 sports. I hope these games will be held but we understand that this is a very complicated goal. But I would like to note again that this is a graphic example of how Russia can organise multisport international competitions under difficult conditions. Let me repeat that this is an example for other countries of how to get past the pandemic period. The European Weightlifting Championships is another international event that is scheduled for late October.
The Russian Universiade and the Russian Student Spartakiada tournament are also planned for October. They will allow the biggest number of people – school and university students – to return to normal life. But our first large event is the national Day of the Athlete on 8 August. We are planning to hold the 3х3 Orange Ball basketball tournament which will be attended by over 80,000 basketball players of different ages. Thus, we will soon bring our calendar back to normal and will do everything we can to return professional sports and, most important, make sports a normal part of life for all people.