Subject: The situation with the spread of the novel coronavirus infection.
Question: Good afternoon,
A briefing by Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova will be held here at the House of Government’s press centre. We will discuss the situation with the coronavirus in the country, the progress of vaccinations, as well as the outcomes of the Russian delegation’s visit to Turkey this week. Ms Golikova, please go ahead.
Tatyana Golikova: Good evening, colleagues,
I will begin with our inspection team’s recent visit to Turkey.
As agreed with the Turkish side, this inspection visit has effectively taken place. Our group included representatives of Rospotrebnadzor, the Ministry of Healthcare and Rostourism in order to be able to arrive at a comprehensive assessment of the situation in the Republic of Turkey and its level of readiness to receive Russian tourists.
I would like to provide a detailed overview of the issues that were the subject of inspection and monitoring.
In conjunction with their Turkish counterparts, our colleagues inspected the airport, the algorithms for detecting passengers with elevated body temperature at the airport, procedures for collecting samples in the event of a suspected novel coronavirus infection, a PCR laboratory at the airport, and three hotels – three-, four- and five-star hotels.
In addition, we had a meeting with representatives of the national public health sector, during which information covering the provision of medical help to tourists, hospital equipment, the dynamics of the coronavirus cases and the current hospital bed occupancy was presented.
Our colleagues presented the following during this presentation.
First, our Turkish colleagues have developed a guide on key work areas amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including diagnostics, treatment and contact tracing. A special questionnaire has been developed, which must be filled out on the website before entering the country allowing contacts to be traced online. Also, it includes matters related to isolation and organisation of various fields of activity. National public health authorities monitor compliance up to four times a month. In case of gross violations, they shut down the perpetrator. In cases of minor violations, the perpetrator will pay a fine.
Second. The mask mandate is in place. Control is in place, and masks and sanitizers are available in public places and on transport. Thermal imaging control is in place at the airport and four- and five-star hotels. Ambulances are on duty around the clock at the airport. Isolation areas have been set up at the airport and the hotels. There are markers and maximum occupancy and social distancing signs. Information is being provided about restrictive measures and the need to observe precautions related to coronavirus. A 10 pm to 5 am curfew was introduced for the locals. There is a fine for non-compliance. Disinfection regulations have been put in place. Cookware and dishes are disinfected according to the guidelines. Meals are provided as a buffet without self-service.
Importantly, according to the Turkish authorities, 60 to 90 percent of the hotel staff has been vaccinated. Pool water, sea water, food, wipe samples from contact surfaces, hands of the staff members and hands of the staff involved in organising services at the hotels are lab tested on a monthly basis.
According to our Turkish colleagues, ambulance arrival time is 10 minutes, and bed occupancy has decreased from 59 percent to 39 percent.
However, our colleagues have noticed a number of shortcomings that shouldn’t be ignored. The fact is that the sequence of actions when a passenger or a tourist with an elevated temperature is detected at the airport or a three-star hotel, and the use of personal protective equipment in the isolation ward of a three-star hotel remain unclear. Personnel testing at the three-star hotel and the airport are conducted once a month. The four-star hotel does not test vaccinated staff members. Clearly, these are the rules adopted by the Turkish Republic.
In addition, our colleagues noted the insufficient number of air disinfection devices.
Today, some of the work was still underway, but according to our specialists’ findings and based on the discussion and full review of this matter by all involved federal executive bodies at the Emergency Response Centre’s meeting, a decision was made to restore air service with the Republic of Turkey beginning 22 June. Please keep in mind that air traffic will be suspended until 11:59 pm 21 June.
I would also like to draw your attention to the fact that during the discussion at the Emergency Response Centre’s meeting, a number of decisions were made to open air service with some countries starting 28 June, as well as to increase passenger traffic to the countries that had been opened earlier by the decision of the Emergency Response Centre and the Prime Minister’s order.
In addition, the Emergency Response Centre has come out with a decision that will be submitted for approval by the Prime Minister to include the People’s Republic of China and the Principality of Liechtenstein, since there is no air service with it, on the list of foreign states whose nationals and persons holding a residence permit or other document, confirming their permanent residence in these countries, can enter the Russian Federation.
As a reminder, China’s requirements concerning entry to the People’s Republic of China are fairly strict, but we hope that these restrictions will gradually be lifted and our citizens will also be able to visit the People’s Republic of China for business and as tourists.
As for air traffic, it was decided to resume it on a regular basis but with restrictions for now on the number of flights with the United States between Moscow and Washington and between Moscow and New York, and with the Kingdom of Belgium between Moscow and Brussels. In addition, we propose to resume air travel with the Republic of Bulgaria between Moscow and Sofia, Moscow and Varna, and Moscow and Burgas, and also between these cities in Bulgaria and some international airports in Russia.
It was also decided to resume air traffic with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on the Moscow – Amman and Moscow – Aqaba routes and with the Republic of Ireland on the Moscow – Dublin route. We propose to resume reciprocal regular air traffic with the Italian Republic on the routes Moscow – Rome, Moscow – Milan, Moscow – Venice and Moscow – Naples, with the Republic of Cyprus on the routes Moscow – Larnaca and Moscow – Paphos and also between some international airports in Russia and Cyprus.
We mean to resume reciprocal air traffic with the Republic of North Macedonia on the Moscow – Skopje route. For now, there will be one flight per week, but nevertheless.
We propose to increase the number of flights with the Republic of Austria, the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Armenia and the Hellenic Republic, including islands that are part of the Hellenic Republic, such as Thessaloniki, Heraklion, Rhodes, Corfu, Araxos and Zakynthos. And just as in the case of the other countries, air traffic to the Hellenic Republic will resume from some international airports located on Russian territory.
It was also decided to increase the number of flights to the State of Qatar, the Republic of Finland, the Republic of Croatia and the Swiss Confederation, as well as to expand flights to the cities of these states.
As I have already said, we expect the resumption of flights and an increase in their number to take place on June 28, 2021. At present, the authorised government bodies of the Russian Federation have been instructed to prepare the necessary documents for organising this work.
Nonetheless, I would like to remind our citizens that each country has its own entry rules. Therefore, in planning to visit a foreign state, it is necessary to follow its rules.
Now I would like to draw the attention of our citizens to the recommendations on the implementation of which we strongly insist. If you a planning a vacation, get vaccinated because a number of countries have decided to only allow entry to those who are vaccinated. Probably, you will remark that the WHO has not recognised our vaccines so far. Some countries include only the WHO-recognised vaccines in their rules. However, some of the states that are now open have expressed a willingness to accept our citizens, those who have received jabs with Russian vaccines, primarily Sputnik V.
I would also like to emphasise that getting vaccinated is an additional guarantee against the novel coronavirus infection. This will be safer for everyone – those who decide to go abroad and those who are staying here, knowing that our citizens have gone abroad. It is always bad to be sick in a foreign country.
Question: What is the current situation with the coronavirus like in Russia? Can you explain what has pushed up infection rates?
Tatyana Golikova: We are currently seeing a dramatic increase in coronavirus infection rates. Moscow and the Moscow Region have the highest number of cases in the Russian Federation. Infection rates across the country in the last five days of this week are up 34.4 percent from the same period of last week, while the figure for Moscow is even higher, 54.4 percent.
As for the causes, for this situation it is important to note that, first, our citizens are failing to observe restrictive measures, particularly at a time when we do not have the so-called herd immunity. We have said on more than one occasion that there are three factors that help cut infection rates. They include large-scale testing, that is, timely tracking of people who have caught coronavirus, observing restrictive measures like mask wearing and disinfection and, of course, vaccination, which is a preventive measure in fighting the new disease.
Another likely reason for the increase, which is also important to mention, is that the new coronavirus strain has mutated around the world and in our country. We have worked hard and created a relevant national resource for sequencing coronavirus in Russia, which allows us to keep tabs on what is happening in the country and, of course, correlate this information with that in the GISAID international information system.
Today, based on international sources and on what we see in our country, we can say that the proportion of the Indian virus strain, called Delta, has surged in 70 countries and in Russia as well. Both international researchers and our scientists who have conducted research say that this strain is more contagious compared to the one we saw earlier.
International data was released, and now it is confirmed by what we are seeing particularly in Moscow and the Moscow Region, that this transmission rate of this strain is up to 60 percent indoors and up to 40 percent outside. At the same time the proportion of senior citizens to young people has changed and there is a growing number of those between the ages of 20 and 49 falling ill. These are more active working people, who are on the move, with active lifestyles. What we are seeing now, including a failure to comply with restrictive measures, which we have repeatedly asked people to observe until we have reached herd immunity, as well as the spread of this Indian variant have caused this dramatic surge in infections, primarily, in Moscow and the Moscow region.
Question: Could you
please tell us about the vaccination campaign?
Tatyana Golikova: As of this morning, 19.7 million people have received the first of two jabs and 16.1 million have received both jabs. At the same time, I would like to note that the daily speed of vaccination has accelerated during the past two days, by about 5 percent throughout the country. The hike was especially rapid in the Moscow Region – by 34 percent over the past two days, followed by the Sakhalin Region – 30 percent – and slightly more than 12 percent in Moscow.
I would also like to point out that the chief sanitary physicians in several Russian regions, acting in accordance with the law on immunisation against infectious diseases, have adopted a decision on the [obligatory] vaccination of certain groups of population. This concerns above all the groups that come into contact with a large number of people. This must be done. The decision has been adopted in the context of the number of new COVID-19 cases, which is growing and will likely continue to grow in the next few days. I have already mentioned that vaccination as a means of preventing the spread of the disease is absolutely necessary to break the chain of infection and to stabilise the epidemiological situation.
Question: Ms Golikova, people who have been vaccinated can nevertheless get the disease. Can you comment on this?
Tatyana Golikova: This is a very important question. People keep asking it and are criticising the situation. I would like to point out that we never said that those who get the jab will never fall ill. They can and they have, although the number of such cases is low.
However, it is vital that when a vaccinated person contracts COVID-19, they will only be mildly ill, provided they see the doctor as soon as they get any of the symptoms, which will prevent the disease from affecting the lungs and becoming severe. This is important, and this concerns a series of factors that must be taken into account. In other words, those who received the jab should not take off their masks, as it often happens, and start mingling. No, they must continue complying with the restrictions even after vaccination. Why is this important? Because we will see a decline, possibly a major decline in the number of new cases only when the majority of people receive the jab. It is called herd immunity. The more people around you become vaccinated, the safer you will be. It is extremely important that those who refuse to get vaccinated know that there are people around them who have decided to get the jab and hence to protect themselves and their loved ones.
I am asking everyone to think about vaccination once again, considering the increased importance of the protection the vaccine gives you in light of the rapid proliferation of the much more contagious Delta strain.
We are not just conducting research according to our own plans, but we are also analysing international experience, because the world is facing the same new strains and their rapid proliferation. We can see that the Indian strain is spreading rapidly in Britain, where the number of cases is growing as well. We are analysing the measures our foreign colleagues are taking. And we can see that the best recommendation is vaccination and, which is very important, revaccination. We are studying all the available materials, and we have come to the conclusion that those who have had COVID-19 should get vaccinated no sooner than six months after recovery. This is the first ting.
Second, the revaccination of those who have received any of the available vaccines should be held no sooner than in 12 months. Another important thing I would like to point out is that they may have to get revaccinated in six months in case of an adverse epidemiological situation, such as we have now, that is, a hike in the number of new cases. Therefore, those who received the jab a considerable time ago, more than six months ago, and are wondering what they should do now, can start thinking about revaccination.
I am asking everyone to once again consider getting vaccinated. As I have already mentioned, it is now young people aged between 20 and 49 who are falling ill. Regrettably, they take their time before seeing a doctor. Over the past two days, we registered a 14 percent increase in the number of fatalities. Before that, since December 2020 and until several days ago, the death rate was decreasing. But it started growing again in the past two days. To prevent deaths, please protect yourself and your loved ones, comply with all the restrictive recommendations of our chief sanitary physicians and other medical professionals, who are working on the frontline of the battle against COVID-19.
Golikova, what should a person do if they think they have the first symptoms of
Tatyana Golikova: This is a subject of utmost importance. Although it may seem absolutely simple and banal, it is really vital. It has something to do with a situation when vaccinated people are taken ill and disregard the initial signs.
Right now, there’s a new strain of the virus prevailing in Moscow and the Moscow Region. According to the publications written by Western researchers, the disease has very simple symptoms, including a runny nose, a sore throat just like with pharyngitis, and also headaches. That’s about it. People take standard anti-virus medicine. Worse still, they take antibiotics because the symptoms resemble those of a common cold and they virtually neglect the disease, without discerning between colds and COVID-19.
Therefore it is extremely important that they contact a doctor in this situation when the first symptoms appear. They should take PCR tests to confirm or refute COVID-19 diagnoses.
Here is another important aspect: оver a period of the past few days, it has come to our notice that young people are not getting medical help. Three, four and five days later, a very complicated mechanism of this disease is activated, and people start suffering from medium-level or acute infections. Consequently, it becomes rather difficult to treat these cases.
In his recent interview, Sergei Sobyanin said that Moscow’s new hospital beds were being filled up very quickly because people are not seeking timely medical attention and the disease develops at home. Staying home might be a good thing, but these people sometimes go to work, visit public places, and infect others.
I repeat, this contagious strain considerably increases chances of infection. Please, take care of yourselves and avoid coming in contact with other people if you develop the first cold-like symptoms. See a doctor and don’t try and cure yourselves.
In conclusion, I would like to note that we are now holding a briefing ahead of Medical Worker’s Day. Today, the Prime Minister has already congratulated our esteemed medical personnel on the upcoming special day. I would also like to thank our esteemed medical workers for their incredible work, for the heavy burden that they have to carry and which they have been carrying for the past 18 months. Of course, I would like to wish them good health and tremendous willpower. I know that they have the required willpower because otherwise we would have failed to cope with the current difficulties. And I would like to express hope that we will overcome this problem together, and that we will defeat this infection.