Russian PM Mikhail Mishustin tests positive for coronavirus
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Russian PM Mikhail Mishustin tests positive for coronavirus

First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov to fill in for him; unclear when premier last met with Putin

Russian Prime minister Mikhail Mishustin chairs a meeting with members of the government via teleconference call in Moscow on April 30, 2020. (Dmitry Astakhov / SPUTNIK / AFP)
Russian Prime minister Mikhail Mishustin chairs a meeting with members of the government via teleconference call in Moscow on April 30, 2020. (Dmitry Astakhov / SPUTNIK / AFP)

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin on Thursday said he had tested positive for coronavirus and will self-isolate to protect other cabinet members.

“I have just learned that the test on the coronavirus I took was positive,” Mishustin said in a video meeting with President Vladimir Putin.

First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov will temporarily perform Mishustin’s duties, but the prime minister said Thursday that he would stay in touch on key issues.

Mishustin, 54 ,was named prime minister in January.

During a video call, Putin voiced hope that Mishustin would continue taking part in drafting policies to shore up the Russian economy, which has been hurt by the virus pandemic.

In Russia, the prime minister oversees the economy and answers to the president.

It was not immediately clear when Putin last met with Mishustin in person. The Russian president has minimized meetings and switched to holding video conferences with officials during the pandemic.

Coronavirus cases in Russia surged past 100,000 on Thursday as the country recorded its largest daily increase, after officials warned infections had not yet peaked and extended lockdown measures.

A spike of 7,099 confirmed infections in the last 24 hours brought Russia’s total to 106,498 cases and 1,073 deaths from the virus, the government’s coronavirus information site said in a daily update.

With the number of cases increasing by several thousand each day, Russia is now leading European countries in registering new infections.

A man wearing a respirator mask walks past the entrance to Prospekt Mira metro station in Moscow on April 29, 2020 during a strict lockdown in Russia to stop the spread of the COVID-19 infection caused by the novel coronavirus. (Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP)

Putin said the country’s coronavirus response had shown that “we are together, we are a united country.”

“Battling the threat of the coronavirus is a real test of our humanity,” he said in a teleconference with volunteers and charity workers from various regions.

Russia’s coronavirus death rate remains relatively low and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the country’s actions had helped it avoid the catastrophic “Italian scenario.”

Russia’s success was down to “tough self-isolation decisions” and government measures, “which convinced people to stay at home,” Peskov told the RTVI television channel.

He also said Russia had quickly and efficiently increased the number of available hospital beds.

The virus has spread to all 85 regions of the country, with Moscow the epicenter with around half the total cases.

Russia recently surpassed Iran and China in the number of confirmed infections and is now eighth in the world in virus cases, according to an AFP tally.

The country has carried out nearly 3.5 million virus tests, health officials said, and is ranked 19th in the world for the number of coronavirus deaths.

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