Russia sees record rise as virus cases surge past 130,000

Moscow (AFP) –


Russia on Sunday reported a new record daily rise in coronavirus infections as the number of confirmed cases surged past 130,000.

As some European countries were looking to gradually lift restrictions, officials in Moscow -- the epicentre of the contagion in Russia -- urged residents to stay home despite glorious weather.

With the number of cases rising by several thousand each day, Russia is now the European country registering the most new infections.

Despite the increases, the government has indicated it could gradually lift confinement measures from May 12, depending on the region.

According to the government's daily coronavirus update, 10,633 confirmed infections were reported in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 134,687.

President Vladimir Putin has said the situation remains "very difficult" and warned that the country was not yet past the peak of the outbreak.

Russia's official fatality rate has remained low in comparison to countries like Italy, Spain and the United States.

Fifty-eight people died over the past 24 hours, bringing the total toll to 1,280.

The authorities are preparing to set up temporary field hospitals around Moscow including at the VDNKh, the famed Soviet-era outdoor exhibition centre, in case infections continue to surge.

Muscovites have been under lockdown since March 30 and in mid-April, the authorities introduced a system of digital permits to reduce violations of the restrictions.

They have warned that the rules may be tightened further.

Residents of the Russian capital are only allowed to leave their homes to walk their dogs, take out trash and visit their nearest shop although private car journeys have not been restricted up to now.

Many complained that it was increasingly difficult to observe the quarantine as the weather was getting warmer.

In a sprawling park in southwest Moscow on Sunday, a two-person police patrol asked parents with small children to respect the confinement rules and return home.

- 'Threat on the rise' -

Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin on Saturday urged residents to continue to respect stay-at-home rules and other measures over the long May holidays.

"The threat is apparently on the rise," Sobyanin said on his blog.

Earlier this week Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and Construction Minister Vladimir Yakushev tested positive for the coronavirus and were hospitalised.

Mishustin's first deputy Andrei Belousov is now serving as acting prime minister.

Mishustin's spokesman Boris Belyakov told reporters on Sunday that the prime minister was feeling fine and was in touch with his colleagues.

The health ministry said on Friday that the number of infected children was on the rise. Two children had died from the coronavirus and 11 more were in a serious condition.

Moscow alone has recorded 5,948 new cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the capital's total to 68,606.

Sobyanin said about two percent of Moscow residents -- or more than 250,000 people -- have the coronavirus.

According to official statistics, Moscow has a population of 12.7 million but the real figure is believed to be higher.

Putin has postponed a landmark military parade to honour the 75th anniversary of Soviet victory in World War II on May 9.

He has also postponed an April vote on constitutional reforms that could allow the 67-year-old Kremlin chief to potentially stay in power until 2036.