Kremlin says coronavirus situation ‘tense but under control’ as Omsk region health chief fired over shortage of beds

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman sought to reassure Russians on Thursday that the coronavirus pandemic in the country is under control. Meanwhile, a number of cities across the country are bracing for a rise in cases.

Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the president is aware of a number of failings of local healthcare systems, saying that “the epidemic is developing, and it is continuing. The situation is indeed very tense, but it is under control. Unfortunately, in some regions we see disruptions, the president knows about them and there is a system in place to respond to them.”

The news comes as Russia recorded 19,768 new positive tests in the past 24 hours, and a number of local authorities took steps to prepare for more hospitalisations. In St. Petersburg, where the local governor is warning of potentially tougher measures, a children’s hospital has been converted into a makeshift coronavirus ward.

In the city of Omsk, in southwestern Siberia, regional Governor Alexander Burkov has dismissed his Minister of Health Irina Soldatova. In October, ambulance workers in the city protested by delivering seriously ill patients directly to the ministry building after reportedly driving around for hours, unable to find a hospital with space to take the patients. Roszdravnadzor, the Federal Service for Healthcare Surveillance, launched an investigation into the incident.

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In a statement announced on his Instagram, Burkov wrote that the decision to ask for Soldatova’s resignation was “a balanced one. It was made based on the results of the analysis of the current state of the regional healthcare system and the results of Roszdravnadzor’s inspection of the incident that took place on October 27.”

President Putin has previously insisted that Russia will not return to a national lockdown, having eased measures put in place to control the spread of the virus in May. He added that, “Despite the challenging epidemiological situation, we are much better prepared now to work in the epidemic environment.”

In total, 1.7 million coronavirus cases have been recorded in Russia since the start of the pandemic in March. Numbers are continuing to rise as European nations experience a ‘second wave’ of infections.

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