Question: Ms Golikova, the media have been discussing the
complicated epidemiological situation in Turkey over the past few days. Members
of the emergency response centre have been monitoring the
situation, including in Turkey. What decisions have they made based on the
Tatyana Golikova: Good evening,
Before discussing specific decisions, I would like to note that our key task is to preserve the health of Russian citizens and a stable situation with coronavirus incidence rates that we have managed to achieve in the past few months.
The emergency response centre constantly monitors the infection’s spread in countries where Russian airlines operate scheduled flights. By analysing this data, we decide whether it is appropriate to open or restrict air traffic if the epidemiological situation deteriorates.
As a result, we have decided to restrict regular and chartered flights from Russia’s international airports to airports in the Republic of Turkey and back from 15 April 2021 until 1 June 2021. Except destinations, needed to involve shareholding company Concern Titan-2 in building the Akkuyu nuclear power station and evacuating Russian citizens having vacations in the Republic of Turkey, as well as retaining two weekly flights, Moscow-Istanbul and Istanbul-Moscow, on a reciprocal basis.
Furthermore, tour operators are advised to temporarily stop selling tours to the Republic of Turkey in the Russian Federation during this period.
In addition, after analysing the epidemiological data, we have also decided to suspend air traffic with the United Republic of Tanzania from 15 April 2021 until 1 June 2021.
I would like to draw your attention to the fact that we will closely follow the situation, and will promptly inform Russian citizens that they can buy tours to these countries when the situation in the Republic of Turkey and the Republic of Tanzania is stabilised.
Question: Ms Popova, could you please tell us how the coronavirus situation looks in Russia and around the world?
Anna Popova: In Russia things are stabilising thanks to the systematic measures being taken. But I would just like to point out that new cases are not declining as fast as they did before; the pace has slowed down though. In the last three weeks, we have seen a decrease by 1.5 percent from week to week, while previously, the cases were shrinking at a rate of 12 percent on a weekly basis. This is what I mean, the pace has definitely slowed down a bit. Looking at the curve it’s almost flat now. The most recent incidence was 45 cases per 100,000 per week across the country, with a continuing high coverage of testing.
As for the global figures, during the first ten days of April, growth was observed in many countries of the European Union, as well as in Africa, the Americas and also in Asia. This means, any stabilisation around the world is still yet to come.
As for the countries Russia has air traffic services with, out of 30 such countries, 21 have shown a certain destabilisation over the past three weeks. The biggest increment was recorded in the Republic of Turkey. Allow me to remind you that, compared with 45 cases per 100,000 in the Russian Federation, Turkey had 455 per 100,000 as of the 14th week of 2021.
We are very closely monitoring the situation at the border, and, according to the sanitary and quarantine control data, we have tested almost 3 million people returning from abroad since international flights were reopened, to detect 25,040 novel coronavirus cases – about 1 percent of all COVID-positive patients. This is a lot. Of the total number of infections, almost 80 percent are Russians returning back from Turkey.
We are also noting that Russians are bringing a variety of mutated strains back from Turkey. The epidemiological situation in Turkey continues to deteriorate since the first week of March. Unfortunately, as of today, we have not seen any slowdown.
According to the data received from the Russian Embassy in Turkey, with reference to the Turkish Ministry of Health, 58 provinces that are home to 80 percent of Turkey’s population are showing growth, and those provinces are again high-risk zones for the spread of the disease.
The British strain has been found and recorded in each of Turkey’s 81 provinces and 11,169 people were diagnosed with the South African type. The Brazilian coronavirus as well as the California and New York mutations have also been detected.
A general analysis of statistics shows that three out of four detected coronaviruses in Turkey are mutated strains of the virus.
I would like to note, as Tatyana Golikova already mentioned, that the coronavirus situation in the Republic of Tanzania is also unstable, but besides that, in 2020 alone, when travel was limited, 11 cases of malaria were brought from Tanzania to the Russian Federation. Since the beginning of 2021, two more severe cases have been imported. Therefore, the measures to protect the health of Russians that have been taken and are being taken are undoubtedly necessary.
We continue the in-depth monitoring of the virus’ genetic variability. As of 9 April, we have examined over 10,000 samples and found 193 strains, including 128 cases of the UK strain. I want to note that we had 101 cases a week ago. The strain was largely imported from Turkey and Tanzania. In addition, we identified 16 cases of the South African strain, which also came from Turkey, Tanzania and the Republic of South Africa. And 49 cases of unspecified mutations requiring additional research, which have no connection with any of the above strains; in some of these strains the mutation is considerable.
The number of the countries reporting the virus strains causing concern keeps growing. According to the World Health Organisation, the UK, South Africa and Brazil strains have already replaced the reference strain in Great Britain, South Africa and Brazil. At the same time, it is emphasised that the infection is transmitted quicker at the local level. So the spread of the strains genetically different from those circulating in the Russian Federation from the reference strains creates an additional threat. And the short-term forecast, for the next six months, will depend on the import of new virus strains, the natural evolution of the virus inside the country, the efficiency of our measures to prevent the virus transmission from person to person, and further development of the epidemiological situation.
I want to stress again that the decisions taken by the emergency response centre as of now are highly necessary and relevant.
To curb the transmission of the virus within the country we continue monitoring the restrictive measures adopted in the regions. The face mask requirement is still effective in all parts of the country. A strict disinfection regime still exists in public transit and in crowded areas. Most of the regions have kept in place the ban on holding entertainment events. I want to point out that 27 regions have lifted the ban on public catering services from 11 pm to 6 am and 20 regions more cancelled their restrictions for persons over 65. Within two weeks after such decisions were adopted, and after a stabilisation and reduction in new cases, we have noticed a higher disease incidence in the senior age bracket and among young people. Currently, the aggravation of the situation is unfortunately clearly registered and is inevitable in the regions where the restrictions were lifted.
The requirement to keep the restrictions in place is binding now and we should not be in a hurry at all to lift the bans in this situation. The rules that we have been adhering to for over a year and all of us know too well – mandatory face masks, social distancing, washing hands, clean items on the table and observation of all hygiene rules – they are extremely important today. We must not let the epidemiological situation collapse and develop any further. And it is undoubtedly very important to take the opportunity and get vaccinated. Vaccination is the most effective instrument of COVID prevention and all Russian citizens should use it as soon as possible, given our current mass campaign of immunisation against COVID.
The epidemiological situation in the world is changing very quickly, sometimes overnight in the countries that seemed to have a stable enough situation just a day earlier. For us, in Russia, our citizens’ health remains an unconditional priority and we are taking all possible measures to protect their health, measures that were mentioned today and to which Tatyana Golikova initially drew our attention.
Question: Ms Golikova, regarding Turkey and Tanzania: what should those who have already bought package tours to these particular countries do?
Tatyana Golikova: I would like to say once again that those who are already in the Turkish Republic will be able to either continue their holidays there until their planned departure date or to fly back home on the charter flights that have been planned within the framework of their trips. We will do our best to organise this.
The second thing is, we recommend that those who have already paid for trips with departure dates scheduled before 1 June coordinate with their travel agents a change of destination within the same timeframe or put off their trips until a later more convenient date, whenever possible. As for those who have already paid for package tours with a departure date after 1 June, we will promptly update them on what is happening, as I have already mentioned, and we will inform them if the situation improves, so that they can confirm their plans.
Regarding travel agencies, we have instructed Rostourism to work with the concerned agencies to submit a package of measures to support the tourism industry, which will help them fulfil their obligations to the tourists. We are waiting for them to submit their proposals as soon as possible. This concerns both financial and non-financial support packages.
In addition to what Anna Popova has said, I would like to appeal to our citizens once again. We have been working together a great deal to stop the infection. We have been living for over a year amid the restrictions we regard as important and expedient at a time when we need to contain the novel coronavirus infection. The decision we have taken today is absolutely necessary in the context of what Ms Popova has mentioned just now, namely, the threats facing our people and the tourists who have decided to travel to these countries. We would like to ask them once again to show understanding when it comes to this decision.
As for our citizens remaining in the country, there are days off ahead and people are making plans for their holidays, including trips both around Russia and abroad. We are asking them to take into account the information on the epidemiological situation in foreign countries, published by Rospotrebnadzor on its online resources.
This is the first thing I wanted to say. And secondly, we are asking them to respect the current restrictions. Of course, they differ from one region to another, depending on the epidemiological situation. But we have become aware that the situation tends to change very subtly. And when we lift restrictions, the virus resumes its proliferation within a matter of two weeks. This is especially true about the current period when seasonal illnesses are picking up in Russia. We have pointed out on numerous occasions that April and May are the months when you should take particular care of yourself and your dear ones, complying with the restrictions, even though we have become tired of them, but they are necessary for maintaining the stability that has developed in Russia over the past few months, as I have already mentioned.
Of course, I would like to once again appeal to our citizens who have no contraindications to being vaccinated: do get a jab and bring your families along as well. You should do this so that even if you catch the virus you will not have a serious form of the disease.
This is especially important, considering that the May holidays are just around the corner. Please, take care of yourself and your close ones.