Putin to Address Nation as Virus Cases Spike


Russian President Vladimir Putin will give a televised address to the nation on Thursday, his spokesman said, after the country registered a sharp increase in coronavirus cases. 

"The president is now working on the text", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, adding that Putin's speech would be aired after 1300 GMT.

Confirmed coronavirus cases in Russia spiked Thursday with 771 new infections registered bringing the total to 3,548 and 30 deaths, according to official numbers.

In a rare televised address last Wednesday, Putin announced that Russians would not be required to go to work this week, but would still get paid, as part of efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

He also postponed a key public vote scheduled for April 22 on constitutional reforms that would allow him to stay in power until 2036.

Thursday's announcement comes after health officials on Wednesday called for an extension to the week off to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Dozens of regions throughout Russia have gone into lockdown this week as part of new preventative measures against COVID-19.

Moscow, a city of more than 12 million residents, introduced strict isolation rules on Monday, with authorities ordering people to stay home, except for emergencies. 

City officials are rolling out a mobile phone app and scannable QR codes to check whether people are adhering to the isolation rules.

Parliament on Tuesday hastily approved severe punishments -- including up to seven years in prison -- for people breaking coronavirus quarantine rules. 

Lawmakers also approved a bill allowing the government to introduce a state of emergency across the country.

The Russian leader is also taking precautions against the coronavirus, spokesman Peskov said this week, with the president opting to carry out most of his duties remotely.

The head of Russia's main coronavirus hospital, who gave Putin a tour of the facilities last week, announced Tuesday he had tested positive for coronavirus, sparking speculation that Putin may have been infected after shaking hands with the doctor.

"Everything is fine" with Putin, Peskov said. "We are taking all the precautionary measures." 

Peskov added that Putin was at his presidential residence in Novo-Ogaryovo outside Moscow. 

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