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Putin says Russia dealing with coronavirus better than US

President Vladimir Putin said in a televised interview Sunday that Russia had been more successful in dealing with the coronavirus than the United States. Despite having one of the highest number of cases worldwide, Russia's death rate is exceptionally low.

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President Vladimir Putin said in a televised interview Sunday that Russia had been more successful in dealing with the coronavirus than the United States.

He contrasted the situations in the two countries, saying in Russia, “We are exiting the coronavirus situation steadily with minimal losses, God willing, in the States it isn’t happening that way.”

Russia dealing with coronavirus better than US?

Russia on Sunday confirmed 8,835 new virus cases, taking the total to 528,964, the third-highest in the world.

Regions are gradually lifting lockdown restrictions and Moscow has reopened non-essential shops and hairdressers. The United States has the world’s largest number of cases by far at 2.07 million.

President Donald Trump pressed for a further reopening as job losses mount from coronavirus in the USA, while China’s premier warned of “immense” economic challenges even as the Asian giant emerges from the worst of the pandemic.

Read more: Coronavirus in USA: Trump wants reopening

Calls to kickstart the world’s two largest economies came as large parts of Europe continued to resume normal life as the crisis there abates, with more shops opening and beaches welcoming tourists.

Trump, with an eye on his re-election prospects in November, made it clear he hoped more US state governors would move towards a loosening restrictions associated with coronavirus in USA.

“We did the right thing but we now want to get going… you’ll break the country if you don’t,” he told African-American leaders in Michigan.

Putin told state television the coronavirus pandemic had exposed “deep-seated internal crises” in the US.

He criticised a lack of strong leadership on the virus situation, saying that “the (US) president says we need to do such-and-such but the governors somewhere tell him where to go.”

“I think the problem is that group interests, party interests are put higher than the interests of the whole of society and the interests of the people,” he said.

Questions over under-reporting deaths

In Russia, however, he argued, the government and regional leaders work “as one team” and do not differ from the official line.

“I doubt anyone in the government or the regions would say ‘we’re not going to do what the government says, what the president says, we think it’s wrong,'” Putin said of the virus strategy.

When the northern Caucasus region of Dagestan suffered particularly hard from the virus, “the whole country rallied to help”, he said.

Russia has so far reported 6,948 COVID-19 fatalities, a fraction of the US total of 115,436 deaths, although critics have suggested that the remarkably low number could be down to under-reporting.

Russia has now begun giving fuller information on deaths, including cases where coronavirus appeared to be the cause but was not detected by tests, as well as cases where the virus was confirmed but not considered the main cause of death.

Using this new method, Russia on Saturday published official figures for virus deaths in April of 2,712, more than twice the figure of 1,152 previously reported by the task force.

This represents a death rate of 2.6 percent among those infected, while officials said the death rate for May and early June would be higher.

Russia’s relatively low number of Covid-19 fatalities has been labeled “unusual” by Michael Ryan, a World Health Organization (WHO) official. He said the low count could be down to the way the country is classifying deaths.

Read more: WHO can’t explain Russia’s low coronavirus death rate

Speaking at a press conference, the executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme said Russia’s stats are an outlier compared to other European nations, but that he does not believe the country is covering up the scale of pandemic.

Speaking to journalists on Thursday, President Vladimir Putin’s official spokesperson Dmitry Peskov disagreed that the statistics were “unusual” and said the media should wait for Russian “epidemiologists to give appropriate explanations” about the methodology.

When asked whether the Kremlin gave recommendations to Russia’s sanitary watchdog to heed the opinion of the World Health Organization, Peskov noted that the Russian watchdog was in contact with the WHO. “Therefore, I think they will tackle the issue and answer all questions from the World Health Organization. I have no doubt about that,” he said.

Herd immunity and new drug contributing to Russia’s better handling of coronavirus?

Russia on Thursday rolled out a drug approved to treat patients suffering from the novel coronavirus, its state financial backer said, as the number of infections there surpassed half a million.

The first deliveries of the new antiviral drug, registered under the name Avifavir, were made to some hospitals and clinics across the country, Russia’s RDIF sovereign wealth fund said in a press release. RDIF has a 50% share in a joint venture with the drug’s manufacturer ChemRar that runs the trials.

The health ministry gave its approval for the drug’s use under a special accelerated process while clinical trials, held over a shorter period and with fewer people than many other countries, were still underway.

As testing ramps up, a growing number of Russians are discovering that they have already had Covid-19. Results show almost 14 percent of people have immunity, meaning millions may have been infected. This research has opened up the possibilities of herd immunity in Russia, as most of the population studied possesses the necessary antibodies.

The recent discovery of antibodies in millions of Russians has indicated that the country may well be on its way toward herd immunity.

Inequality a ‘long-standing’ US problem

Putin also criticised anti-racism protests in the United States for sparking crowd violence, in his first comments on the issue.

“If this fight for natural rights, legal rights, turns into mayhem and rioting, I see nothing good for the country,” the Russian leader said in his televised broadcast.

He stressed he supported black Americans’ struggle for equality, calling this “a longstanding problem of the United States”.

“We always in the USSR and in modern Russia had a lot of sympathy for the struggle of African-Americans for their natural rights,” he insisted.

But Putin added that “when — even after crimes are committed — this takes on elements of radical nationalism and extremism, nothing good will come of this.”

Read more: US and Europe reaping what they’ve sown, says Russian envoy

Putin also described the protests as a sign of “deep-seated internal crises” in the United States, linking the unrest to the coronavirus pandemic, which he said “has shone a spotlight on general problems”.

He said he nevertheless expected that the “fundamental basis of American democracy will allow the country to escape this series of crisis events”.

The interview was billed as Putin’s first since the start of the pandemic, but it is not clear when it was recorded.

AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk 

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