Russia coronavirus: Record rise in cases sees country introduce tough lockdown sanctions

Overnight rise pushes total number of confirmed cases to more than 2,300

Oliver Carroll
Tuesday 31 March 2020 13:02 BST
Russian President Putin says lockdown of Moscow and surrounding regions was 'justified and necessary'

Russia has registered 500 new confirmed cases of coronavirus overnight in the steepest rise on record. The overnight jump was nearly double the previous daily rise of 303 — itself set over the previous 24 hours — and brings the total to 2,337 overall. To date, 17 deaths have been officially ascribed to the virus.

Part of the recent increases can be explained by greater testing capacity, up by over 50 per cent since last week. But the spike also raises the possibility of Russia soon following the exponential curves of European capitals and the US — and less than a week after the Kremlin declared state interventions meant there was “de facto” no epidemic in country.

The latest data also suggests the typical profile of Covid-19 patients is changing. Severe illness is affecting not only the elderly in Russia, officials have revealed. More than a third of new admissions were between 18 and 40 years of age. The same age group accounts for 40 per cent of intensive care bed occupancy.

Addressing regional leaders in a televised conference on Monday, president Vladimir Putin appeared to distance his regime from the previous optimism. No longer was the virus “under control.” Instead “timely actions” by authorities had avoided an “explosive surge” in the number of admissions.

Over the weekend, the Moscow city government introduced strict quarantine regulations that will keep most of the capital’s 12.5 million citizens indoors.

Twenty-seven regional governments have since followed the capital’s lead. According to several local publications, Moscow officials intend to introduce a system of “smart surveillance” to enforce the regulations using facial recognition, CCTV and personalised QR codes to allow people to move across the city.

On Tuesday morning in an emergency session, the State Duma approved sanctions for those ignoring the new rules. Anyone found outside without a good reason could now face fines and prison sentences of up to 7 years.

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