By Gleb Stolyarov and Tom Balmforth
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Moscow city authorities on Thursday reported Russia’s first coronavirus-related death, a 79-year-old woman in Moscow with underlying health issues, as President Vladimir Putin said authorities fighting the virus should be ready for anything.
Russia has temporarily barred entry to foreigners and imposed restrictions on flights and public gatherings. It has reported 199 coronavirus cases so far, a figure that has risen sharply in recent days.
The number of cases is less than in many other European countries, but some doctors have questioned how far the official data reflects reality, given what they say is the patchy nature of testing.
The government has said its statistics are accurate, that its handling of the virus has been transparent and that the situation is under control. Officials say most infected people have entered Russia from coronavirus hotspots abroad.
The city of Moscow’s coronavirus crisis center said in a statement on Thursday that an elderly woman had died from pneumonia in the capital after being diagnosed with the illness.
In a subsequent statement, however, it said she had died because of a detached blood clot. The federal government’s crisis center did not include her death in its own daily bulletin about the number of cases.
The Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper and other Russian media identified the woman as a professor at Moscow’s Gubkin State University of Oil and Gas.
The Moscow authorities’ initial official statement said she had begun receiving treatment last week in a private clinic in the capital before being moved to a hospital specializing in infectious diseases.
Ratcheting up its preventive measures on Thursday, authorities said that everyone who arrives in Russia must now self-isolate for two weeks.
Police in Moscow say they have used facial recognition technology to catch more than 200 people who violated the terms of their self-isolation or quarantine.
Putin told an official in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, that he approved of what was being done in that region to combat the virus.
“We must be prepared for any development of events, so you are doing everything right,” he said.
(Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov; Additional reporting by Maria Tsvetkova; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Frances Kerry)