President Putin switches to working remotely over Coronavirus threat

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SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - MARCH 16: (RUSSIA OUT) Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures during his meeting with health workers at the Almazov Medical National Research Centre on March 16, 2018 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The 2018 Russian Presidential Elections will take place on March 18. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to carry out his duties remotely, the Kremlin said Wednesday after the head of the country’s main coronavirus hospital tested positive following a meeting with the president.

Putin switched to a remote format for working with ministers. On Wednesday, he held the first meeting on the development of an agro-industrial complex via videoconference.

“The president prefers these days to work remotely,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists, shortly before Putin was due to hold a cabinet meeting via videoconference.

According to the Kremlin, Putin will contact government leaders and cabinet ministers from the presidential residence in Novo-Ogaryovo who will also be at their workplaces, through a videoconference. Peskov emphasized that this format is “an innovation.”

The Kremlin spokesman assured that “everyone will see that he works remotely” and reiterated that “everyone saw him remotely participating” in the G-20 summit.

However, Peskov disagreed that the president should defiantly self-isolate himself as all Russian citizens are and pointed out that Putin “usually does not take demonstrative measures, he takes effective measures.”

“We are taking all precautionary measures,” he said, adding that Putin was at the presidential residence outside Moscow.

Denis Protsenko, who met with Putin last week as the Russian leader visited the Kommunarka hospital in Moscow, said Tuesday he had been infected with the coronavirus but was feeling well.

Putin donned a bright yellow hazmat suit for his visit to the hospital last Tuesday. He was also seen talking to Protsenko without any protective gear, but the Kremlin said there is no reason for concern about the president’s health.

“All of those who were with the president at Kommunarka are being tested daily for the coronavirus,” Peskov added, after saying on Tuesday that “everything is fine” with Putin.

When asked if Putin continued to shake hands with those he met, Peskov said, “Of course, everyone is now social distancing.”

Almost 70% of Russia’s 147 million population has been ordered to maintain strict confinement over the pandemic, following a first announcement by the mayor of Moscow on Sunday.

Russia has so far registered 2,777 cases of the coronavirus and 24 deaths, mostly in Moscow.

The country has closed all sporting and cultural events, nightclubs, cinemas and most large gatherings in an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

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