MOSCOW – Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has told President Vladimir Putin that he had been diagnosed with the coronavirus and was temporarily stepping down to recover. Mishustin, 54, suggested that First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov serve as acting prime minister in his absence. Putin, who appointed Mishustin in January, supported the proposal.
Mishustin, who has been one of the main co-coordinators of Russia’s response to the coronavirus, is the first high-ranking Russian official to publicly say they have the virus.
He broke the news hours after the number of confirmed cases of the virus in Russia surged past the 100,000 mark. Mishustin told Putin about his diagnosis during a televised video conference.
“I have found out that the coronavirus tests I had done returned with a positive result,” Mishustin said. “I need to self-isolate, and follow doctors’ instructions. This is necessary for the safety of my colleagues.”
Mishustin said he would remain in contact with members of the government and Putin by phone and video conference despite his condition.
Putin told Mishustin to call him as soon as he reached hospital and wished him a speedy recovery. Mishustin’s fate showed that anyone could contract the virus, Putin added.
Russia’s tally of confirmed coronavirus cases passed the 100,000 mark earlier on Thursday after a record daily rise in new infections.
Russia this week overtook China and Iran in the number of confirmed cases arising from the global pandemic. Russia has so far reported 1073 coronavirus-related deaths, a figure far lower than many of the hardest-hit countries however.
Putin has warned the peak of the outbreak has yet to come, and the authorities have said there could be a new spike in cases if the population flouts lockdown measures during public holidays in early May.
The world’s largest country by territory, Russia has been on lockdown since Putin announced the closure of most public spaces in late March to limit the scope for the virus to spread. Putin and the cabinet have been holding remote meetings to avoid contact.–MercoPress