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Better than most of Europe: Putin hails Russia’s virus response

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Russia has come through the coronavirus pandemic with far fewer infections and deaths than many other European countries, President Vladimir Putin said Monday while visiting Moscow-annexed Crimea.

“So far we are managing to turn this difficult page with minimal losses,” Putin told hard-hatted workers at a shipyard in the city of Kerch.

“The situation is improving,” he said, while noting other countries are seeing a “flare-up” in cases.

The workers and Putin were not wearing facemasks.

The strongman has only rarely been seen wearing protective equipment, but his spokesman has said those who meet him, at least at the Kremlin and his country residence, have to take virus tests and get sprayed with disinfectant.

Only around 0.5 percent of Russia’s population of more than 140 million have been infected, Putin said.

The death rate among those infected is “1.5 percent,” Putin said, while in “rich European countries” it reaches over 15 percent.

He attributed this to the flexibility of Russia’s health system, the professional level of medics, the ability of the state to mobilise resources, and “other factors.”

He also praised Russians who he said “strictly observed the demands of public health doctors, scientists, and, by the way, the World Health Organization.”

Some have pointed to Russia’s lower proportion of very elderly people, particularly men, and lesser use of care homes, as well as the possible underreporting of virus deaths.

Russia has acknowledged that its daily figures only include deaths where coronavirus is listed as the main cause on the death certificate.

Putin said there was no upsurge in cases following mass events he pushed for, including a World War II victory parade on Red Square on June 24 and a week-long national vote on constitutional amendments culminating July 1.

The ballot controversially cleared the way for Putin to serve as president for two more consecutive terms.

Putin nonetheless acknowledged that Russia has not beaten the virus and “the threat is still here.”

A popular event called the Immortal Regiment march where people carry photographs of relatives who died in World War II, first postponed from May 9 to July 26, has now been put off again “till next year” because of virus fears, he said.

Social distancing is impossible with people marching “shoulder to shoulder,” he said.

“Specialists, doctors don’t recommend it.” Agence France-Presse

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