Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin who has tested positive for the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection on Thursday, became the highest-ranking Russian official known to have got infected. Mishustin informed President Vladimir Putin that he would self-isolate but planned to stay in touch on key policy issues during a video call.
Mishustin displayed no visible signs of illness and spoke without difficulty, as per reports. President Putin wished Mishustin a swift recovery and said he hoped the Prime Minister would continue taking part in drafting policies to shore up the Russian economy, which has been damaged by the virus pandemic.
President Vladimir Putin is reported to have said “what is happening to you right now can happen to anyone, I’ve always said so. You are someone very active, I want to thank you for the work that has been done until now".
“When you get to the hospital, I’ll be waiting for your call,” he added.
Mishustin, who was appointed PM in January as part of a major reshuffle in Russia's power structure with an eye at ensuring Putin's longevity, has played a leading role in Russia's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This makes Mikhail Mishustin the second 'Prime Minister' to be diagnosed with COVID-19 after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson - though the Russian PM wields considerably less power than President Putin.
Mishustin urged Russians to take the disease seriously and follow the difficult self-isolation rules that have been imposed by the government. Earlier this week, Putin announced that he would extend the country’s “non-working days” through the May holidays, including the anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany.
The news of PM's illness comes in the wake of coronavirus infections surpassing the one lakh mark in Russia in a record one-day surge. Over a thousand people are also reported dead. According to a report by the Proekt investigative outlet published earlier this week, cabinet members and staffers who have direct contact with Mishustin are regularly tested for COVID-19. Other staffers are required to wear face masks.
On Wednesday, PM Mikhail Mishustin had said that it is not possible to give an exact date as to when the COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted in the country. While chairing a meet of the government’s coordinating council via a video link for combating the spread of coronavirus, the Russian leader that it can also not predict the date for reopening of borders among lifting of other restrictions.