By Andrew Osborn and Vladimir Soldatkin
MOSCOW (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Moscow, the epicentre of Russia’s coronavirus outbreak, had succeeded in preventing what he called worst-case scenarios as the city announced it would ease tough lockdown measures within days.
Speaking to Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, an ally, by video conference, Putin said it was obvious the situation in the city of 12.7 million people had stabilised thanks to steps taken by the authorities.
It was now time for Moscow to provide medical help to regions where the coronavirus remained rampant, said Putin, something Sobyanin said would be organised immediately.
“The situation in Moscow, like in general across the country, is really stabilising … The number of confirmed coronavirus infections in the capital has halved … Significantly more people are being discharged from Moscow hospitals than being admitted,” said Putin.
“Fortunately it’s obvious that it was possible to avoid (worst-case) scenarios.”
Sobyanin told Putin he intended to loosen the capital’s lockdown from June 1. He later published details of how he would do that, saying he would trial the looser regime for two weeks from Monday before deciding on further steps. Muscovites will be allowed to go out for walks three times a week in masks and to do early morning outdoor physical exercise. Non-food shops can also reopen along with certain services, said Sobyanin.
He left a system of digital passes for people wanting to use public or private transport in place.
Russian authorities earlier on Wednesday reported 8,338 new coronavirus infections, pushing the overall case tally up to 370,680, the third highest in the world. The total official death toll stands at 3,968.
Sobyanin said the overnight increase in coronavirus cases in Moscow had fallen to a low of 2,140. Previously, he said, daily infection increases were running at over 6,000 every day.
He also said that the number of seriously ill people in the Russian capital being hospitalised and those with coronavirus-related pneumonia had fallen by 40 percent since May 12.
(Additional reporting by Gleb Stolyarov and Anastasia Teterevleva; Editing by Janet Lawrence)