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Putin rules out another strict Covid-19 lockdown in Russia, citing economic concerns, says ‘we don’t have a kind Aunt to help us’

After his government imposed some of the world’s harshest measures to suppress the spread of coronavirus last spring, Vladimir Putin made it clear on Thursday that there are no plans in place for a repeat lockdown this winter.

Speaking remotely to an audience at VTB Bank’s ‘Russia Calling’ event in Moscow, on the day the country posted its highest one-day total for new infections (17,717) since the pandemic began, the president said the economy must be protected. He pointed out, in jest, that Russia has no ‘kind aunt’ to tap for money in the event of a financial crisis.

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“We do not plan to introduce restrictive measures across the board, or launch a so-called ‘nation-wide lockdown,’ when the economy, the operation of business is actually halted completely,” the president said. “Despite the challenging epidemiological situation, we are much better prepared now to work in the epidemic environment.”

Putin has previously mentioned concerns about mental health in the event of another hard lockdown. Meanwhile, many experts in Moscow have pointed out that an economic collapse would likely be far more dangerous than Covid-19, something most Russians experienced firsthand in the years after the Soviet Union imploded.

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In spring, the country saw some of the world’s strictest measures, with Moscow residents being restricted from leaving their apartments for anything other than food, medical help, or walking pets. The restrictions were partially lifted on June 16, with cafes and restaurants allowed to open on terraces.

Putin added that “the situation is indeed better [than in spring] and this pertains to the experience in mobilizing the healthcare system and taking the required preventive measures – we clearly understand how we should act.”

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Referring to bailouts mandated by the European Union when some of its members found themselves in trouble during the last financial crash, he pointed out that Russia has to look after itself. “Well, in [the] Europe[ean Union] there is a seemingly strict, but still a kind aunt, whom you can always turn to for help,” he said, half-jokingly. “You know who I mean – Germany.”

“We have no one to go to with an outstretched hand, so we must adhere to the rules that have allowed us to maintain a healthy macroeconomic situation in the country over the previous years, and especially in order to ensure that the confidence of our partners, including private investors, in the fundamental foundations of the healthy development of the Russian economy [is maintained],” Putin noted.

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One reason why Moscow may be a little more relaxed compared to the rest of Europe is due to Russia’s progress with vaccines. The first of three known to have already been developed, ‘Sputnik V,’ is only two weeks away from completing its final trial stage. Putin told the forum that he hopes mass vaccination of Russians against coronavirus will begin at the end of the year. 

As of Thursday, Russia has registered 1,581,693 cases of Covid-19, with 27,301 deaths attributed to the pandemic. Overall, the country has the fourth highest number of cases worldwide, after Brazil, India, and the US. However, when measured per capita, Russia’s caseload is close to the European average.

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