As the new coronavirus escaped China’s borders and spread around the world as a global pandemic, it initially appeared that Russia had dodged the viral bullet.
That may not truly be the case, however, as recent reports indicate that as many as five officials and staffers in the Kremlin in Moscow have now tested positive for the COVID-19 disease, the U.K.’s Independent reported.
Coronavirus infiltrates the Kremlin
On Thursday, three local media outlets in Russia began to report that the new coronavirus had appeared within the Kremlin, according to the Independent.
Of the five officials and staffers who reportedly tested positive for the viral infection, at least one or two were said to be employees of President Vladimir Putin’s administration.
Also reported to be infected is at least one member Putin’s presidential administrative directorate and another is a staffer of an unnamed cabinet member.
Tight security protocols
According to reports, it is believed that none of those individuals who’ve tested positive have been in recent contact with President Putin.
One possible reason for that is stepped-up security protocols around the president that were implemented near the end of January, such as screening the temperatures of anybody who came within “breathing distance” of the president.
Just a couple of weeks ago, those protocols were reportedly stepped up once more to include mandatory blood tests for coronavirus for anyone coming within the president’s direct orbit.
Putin: Normalcy will return soon
The Independent noted that the presence of coronavirus infections within the Kremlin appears to be at odds with Putin’s confident assertions that his nation will effectively and quickly handle and overcome the pandemic threat and even return to normalcy in a few months.
In fact, on Thursday, just one day after personally visiting a hospital in Moscow where the majority of the nation’s coronavirus patients are being treated, Putin stated publicly, “My colleague tells me that we will deal with coronavirus within two to three months.” He added, “That’s not too bad given that some countries say their battle will go on for a very long time. I hope it may be even quicker.”
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, Russia has reported 1,264 confirmed cases of coronavirus with only four deaths as of Saturday. Of course, Russia isn’t exactly known for being honest with the rest of the world about what is transpiring within its borders — particularly when it comes to bad or embarrassing news — so those numbers are very likely less than the reality on the ground in Russia.
Putin announced new measures for containing the spread of the virus this week, including closing the borders, shutting stores, and encouraging people to stay home.