Putin warns Russia to brace for 'extraordinary' virus crisis

President says infections in Moscow and rest of country haven't reached peak yet

epa08360960 Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting on the situation with the spread of the COVID-19 disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in Russia, via teleconference call at Novo-Ogaryovo state residence, outside Moscow, Russia, 13 April 2020.  EPA/ALEXEI DRUZHININ / KREMLIN POOL/SPUTNIK / POOL MANDATORY CREDIT

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday warned officials to prepare for the next stage in the coronavirus pandemic as the country tightened its lockdown and reported its highest daily infection figure.

In a video conference with officials on Monday, Mr Putin said the next weeks would be decisive for Russia's fight against the virus as the situation "is changing practically every day and unfortunately not for the better".

He said officials would need to "consider all scenarios for how the situation will develop, even the most complex and extraordinary".

Mr Putin called for measures to end shortages of protective equipment for medics, adding that infections had not reached their peak anywhere in Russia.

"I know there's not always enough of that and of course here we need additional measures to get rid of all these shortages," he said.

Mr Putin said Russia would bring in the Defence Ministry to help if necessary.

The country has sent military planes with specialists and equipment to countries including Italy, China and the US, in gestures that have prompted criticism from some Russians.

Moscow authorities on Monday began issuing digital permits to reduce breaches of the coronavirus lockdown.

Russia reported more than 2,500 new infections, its highest daily rise yet, bringing the tally to 18,328 cases and 148 deaths. Almost 1,500 have recovered.

The numbers are believed to be much higher because many with mild symptoms are not being tested.

Officials said more than 800,000 passes were issued to people planning to travel by car or public transport before the system's formal launch on Wednesday.

But they said hackers attacked the mayor's office website and applicants complained on social media that they were not able to get a pass despite several attempts.

People will be assigned a special code consisting of a sequence of figures and letters, which can be printed out or received by email, when they report where they are planning to go.

Work passes will be valid until April 30, while passes to go to a doctor or elsewhere can be used only once.

Police patrols will be able to check the passes on the streets and could fine people for breaches.

Exempt are armed forces personnel, municipal officials and journalists, among others.

Under strict confinement rules in the Russian capital, Muscovites are only allowed to leave their homes to walk their dogs, take out rubbish and visit their nearest shop, although private car journeys were not restricted until now.

Moscow has been under lockdown since March 30, but is now struggling to cope with the influx of new patients and officials have said hospitals are approaching their limits.

The densely populated capital of more than 12 million residents has reported 11,513 cases and 82 deaths.

EDITOR'S PICKS
NEWSLETTERS