Meeting with regional heads on combatting the spread of the coronavirus in Russia
Vladimir Putin is holding a meeting, via videoconference, with heads of Russian regions on combatting the spread of the novel coronavirus infection in the country.
April 8, 2020
Novo-Ogaryovo, Moscow Region
Also taking part in the meeting are executives from the Government and Presidential Executive Office, Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoys to the federal districts as well as heads of ministries and departments.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues,
Is everybody present? Can you all hear and see me?
The executives of the Russian Government and heads of all Russian regions are taking part in our work.
I suggest focusing on the issues that are the main ones for all of us today. These include: fighting the spread of the coronavirus, protecting people's health and life, people's safety, ensuring economic stability, safeguarding employment levels and our people's incomes.
I will start with an overriding priority common to all regions. I mean improving the readiness of the medical institutions and considerably increasing their resources and capabilities. It is an unquestionable priority now.
The necessary federal support has already been provided to this end and reached the regions. This includes over 33 billion rubles for the deployment of additional specialised, fully-equipped beds in hospitals and contagious isolation wards.
About 13 billion rubles more have been allocated for the purchase of medical equipment, including ventilators as well as mobile intensive care units and ambulances, which will reach the regions already in April.
Hopefully, we will not need all the reserves and additional capacities that are being created in the healthcare system. But now we must be ready to fight for the life of every person in every region.
I believe you understand how much personal responsibility you have for ensuring that the allocated funds are used as effectively as possible.
I ask you to act in a prompt, organised and professional manner and to value time, every day and every ruble. To solve all organisational and personnel issues in advance. To form teams of specialists capable of working with new equipment in hospitals that are being converted to treat people with the coronavirus infection.
At the same time, I am instructing the Finance Ministry to give the regions the flexibility to concentrate the allocated funds on those problems that are more visible on the ground. I know that the regional heads – and I communicate with you, colleagues, on a daily basis – have proposals on these matters. And I ask you to give separate reports on them today, to address them separately.
But let me emphasise that when providing such freedom of movement, we will hold you strictly accountable. We will evaluate the result not by the formal number of reserved beds, but by the actual readiness of medical institutions, equipment and personnel to provide the specialised care that patients with severe symptoms need.
We also provided for additional payments to doctors, nurses and medical personnel for the special working conditions and increased workload. Funds for these purposes – more than 10 billion rubles – have been allocated from the federal budget and will soon reach the regions. People should receive such payments on time, without delay.
Moreover, I believe it necessary to implement another measure: to introduce, for three months starting in April, a special federal payment for specialists working directly with coronavirus patients who risk their health every moment.
Additional payment for doctors working directly with coronavirus patients will be 80,000 rubles per month, 50,000 rubles for mid-level personnel, such as paramedics and nurses, and 25,000 rubles per months for junior medical staff. Emergency physicians who also work with coronavirus patients will receive 50,000 rubles per month. Paramedics, nurses and drivers will get 25,000 rubles.
Let me repeat that these specialists are on the frontline. So we will proceed from this terminology and this situation. It would also be right to make another decision, namely, introduce increased insurance guarantees for them using the funds from the federal budget, as was done for Russian Armed Forces personnel.
Next, at the meeting with my plenipotentiary envoys to the federal districts, I instructed them to check all the details of interregional cooperation, including patients arriving from other regions and ambulance trips to neighbouring Russian regions. Please report to me today how this work has been arranged and whether there remain any unsolved problems.
It is also necessary to take full advantage of our leading federal medical centres. While I understand their specifics very well, it is still important to pool all our resources now. This is why I am instructing the Government to make a schedule, within two days, for moving the hospital bed stock from federal clinics to the regions.
In accordance with my Executive Order, all Russian regions were to draft plans for optimal preventive measures, based on the risk of spreading the infection. Please report today on whether such plans have been put in place and, most importantly, how they are being implemented.
By giving additional powers to the heads of the regions, I proceeded from the fact that acting by a single model is not only ineffective but sometimes even harmful. You have all the opportunities to work both targetedly as well as accurately, to take into account the developments in each settlement, at specific enterprises, in a region as a whole, and to take adequate, well-considered preventive measures, the main purpose of which is to protect human life and health.
At the same time, the economy should not be stopped. We should not close down transport, freight or passenger traffic between the regions and massively restrict the work of enterprises, regardless of the real situation, even when there are only a few cases in a region. We must understand what damage, what destructive consequences this can lead to.
I would like to note that even in Moscow with its population density, high traffic flows, and therefore objectively greater risks of spreading the infection, there is no practice of ubiquitous closure of enterprises, nothing is painted with a single brush. Many Moscow companies continue to work or have switched to working remotely.
Now we need to create all the conditions for companies, organisations and entrepreneurs to return to their normal work schedule. I repeat, this must be done wisely and carefully, closely monitoring the situation. There should be a clear, understandable list of organisations whose work is limited due to higher risks. Other enterprises should not be burdened with various additional certificates, clarifications or approvals. They can continue to work, observing all the necessary sanitary requirements and safety standards.
And, of course, it is important to minimise crisis developments and cushion the blow for businesses whose losses, let's be honest, are quite serious and can be even heavier.
We have agreed that there will be a regional list of important, backbone enterprises in every Russian region. I am once again asking the heads of the regions to look into the problems of every enterprise, help them maintain their stability, preserve employment and look for concrete solutions.
I would also like to speak about several new decisions at the federal level.
First of all, we have already halved social contributions for small and medium-sized businesses, from 30 to 15 percent. We have done this in order for enterprises to have additional resources to pay their employees. As I have already mentioned, this is a long-term measure.
I suggest allowing all the hard hit small and medium-sized businesses to postpone insurance payments to the social funds for six months, like we have already done for micro enterprises.
Second, we have envisaged a 6-month postponement on all tax payments, except VAT, for small and medium-sized businesses. However, after a meeting with entrepreneurs I have drawn the Government's attention to the fact that it must prevent an outcome when six months later companies will have to pay the accumulated debts all at once. This is what worries the business community most, because it would affect businesses a lot. This is why we will restructure such debts. They will be able to deal with this debt smoothly, bit by bit in instalments, every month for at least a year after the postponement is over.
Meanwhile, the situation keeps on changing. Which brings us to number three. I instruct the Government together with the Central Bank to develop within five days a programme of additional support for business. It should make it possible for companies to preserve jobs and employees' incomes to the greatest extent possible.
I understand that these are tough times for businesspeople, but you can see, friends, that it is happening everywhere, practically the entire world: demand is dropping, orders are being scaled back, many companies are facing hard times, especially in the services sector, many of them are closed. It is a serious trial for every businessperson and their business reputation. I am sure that businesses, thinking of the future, will make every effort to hold onto their staff and teams, and we will support such responsible and mature efforts.
I think that the following formula is fair: first help all those companies that are retaining jobs. However, if people still end up out of work, then we will directly help those people who are losing income, families with children that are facing difficulties, people who cannot pay off their loans in the previous amount. A number of measures more in this connection.
First. Yesterday I signed the Executive Order on additional payments to families eligible for maternity capital in the amount of 5,000 rubles per month for each child up to three years of age, inclusive. Payments will begin going out as early as in April, as well as in May and June.
Second. Also in June, a month ahead of schedule, we will start making payments to families with children from three to seven, inclusive.
However, it is important to underscore something which warrants more detail. When I proposed this measure in the Address, what I meant was so-called need-based eligibility, that is, the family had to show its income for the previous year in order to qualify. But at a time when many people's incomes have plummeted, it is impossible to judge a family income by last year's information.
So, for those who are classified as temporarily unemployed, I suggest disregarding the income earned earlier at the place of employment when calculating payments for children from three to seven and other benefits. That way we will considerably expand the range of people receiving such support. Those who previously did not qualify will now get it. Again, it is not based on last year's information, but on the present-day real situation and problems of each family.
Third. For those who lost their jobs and contacted the unemployment service after March 1 of this year, I propose paying unemployment benefits in April, March and June automatically at the upper limit, which we have already revised upwards, at minimum wage – 12,130 rubles. Please make this procedure available remotely (online) and as simple as possible.
This is no time for bureaucratic formalities and running from one agency to another, so, I ask the Government to also work out a mechanism to automatically renew passports, driver's licenses and other IDs for at least three months.
Fourth. As already mentioned, special support measures are needed for families with children where parents are temporarily unemployed. In this case, in addition to unemployment benefits and payments that we already have for families with children, I also propose paying an additional 3,000 rubles a month for each minor child over the next three months.
Fifth. In March, I instructed you to envisage repayment holiday for citizens on consumer and mortgage loans. I ask the Government to return to this support measure and consider expanding it so it becomes available to more people.
As you know, yesterday I met with some scientists, epidemiologists. We are carefully studying the experience of other countries that are also facing the coronavirus threat, and we see that the first four to five weeks from the start of the epidemic are the most difficult. This means that the next two to three weeks will be decisive for the development of our situation. This is the period when we should fully concentrate our resources, strictly comply with the recommendations of doctors and the preventive measures that are being introduced in every region today.
Of course, we cannot be completely sure about how the situation will develop in the healthcare sector, and in the economy, both in our country and in the world as a whole. But we can most likely predict and anticipate possible developments, which means we can and must devise and have our own action plan in advance for each of these scenarios, and then these actions will be timely and effective.
We will work confidently, systematically and professionally. Let me stress that we have everything we need for this: a stable macroeconomic situation, the lowest public debt and a large "safety cushion" in the form of resources accumulated over the years; we have the means to solve these problems according to any possible scenario, and finally, we have experience with overcoming past crises.
It is clear that we cannot get by without certain losses, but we are able to minimise them and create conditions for future development. We will support the hard-hit economic sectors, the labour market and the healthcare system and do everything possible to help people in need today.
Let me repeat that the support measures in all these areas must be drafted in a timely manner and implemented quickly with consideration for the quick development of this situation. We cannot postpone these decisions. I am asking both the Russian Government and the heads of the Russian regions to use this initiative-based approach.
And now I would like to address all Russian citizens. I understand that you are already tired of the burden of financial, household and other everyday problems. Your usual routine has been disrupted. It is tiring for most of us to stay inside all the time. But there is no choice now. We must endure this self-isolation and the challenges it brings. The breakthrough in countering this infection that we must achieve depends on our discipline and responsibility.
You know, it is especially valuable that every day reaffirms the strength and unity of our society. I will once again speak about doctors and nurses. They act selflessly, as one team. Perhaps this is the first time in recent decades that we have realised so clearly how important and irreplaceable their work is. I am also talking about volunteers, whose ranks are expanding now, about athletes, artists and journalists who have joined this effort.
And, of course, I am talking about you: millions of people who help their neighbours, care about their parents and family and show high civil duty during this difficult time. These are not just simple, empty words but our reality, when all your best qualities are needed.
Friends, all things pass, and this will pass, too. Our country has suffered through many ordeals: both Pechenegs and Cumans attacked, and Russia got through it all. We will also defeat this coronavirus infection. Together, we can overcome anything.
Thank you. Let's get down to work.
Vladimir Putin: I would like to say a few words in conclusion. I am asking our colleagues from the regions to do the following.
All of your comprehensive regional plans, as well as specific measures – because I do not know, I have not seen all these plans, but the specific measures being taken at the regional level should be laid out – they should be immediately sent to the working group of the State Council and to the Government of the Russian Federation.
They should also include proposals of the heads of Russian regions on the measures we are taking at the regional and federal levels. These measures, these proposals have been mentioned today here. They should be sent to these two addresses.
Of course, special attention should be paid to the regions, which include cities with a population of over one million. This is a completely obvious thing, I think it is clear to everyone. This does not mean that other regions are to be considered secondarily, but we understand that the density of people is higher and there are more risks in cities with a population of over one million. We just need to keep this in mind.
And finally, I would ask the Government of the Russian Federation to analyse all the materials that will be received from the regions, proposals of the governors, regional leaders, not formally but very carefully, in terms of the adequacy of the measures being taken from the epidemiological point of view to combat the coronavirus infection, but at the same time from the point of view of the effectiveness and feasibility of the measures being taken from the point of view of the economy. They should be sufficient from the epidemiological point of view, from the point of view of epidemiological requirements, but not destructive for the economy.
This is extremely important. When it was said just now that measures are being taken, for example, restrictive ones, related to transport, we need to see what it is. How necessary they are to combat the coronavirus infection and whether they are harmful to the economy of a region itself, its neighbours, and the whole country. We should carefully analyse and give recommendations to our colleagues in the regions on whether certain measures should or should not be taken. This is extremely important in order to coordinate all our work. Only in this case will it be effective and will the measures taken be timely.
I do hope that such work will be continued at the level of the Russian Federation Government and at the level of the Presidential Executive Office, and I myself will certainly closely monitor what happens, and if necessary, we will hold such conference calls in the future.
I would really like you to respond as soon as possible to what I just said and to do all this by the end of the week.
Thank you, thank you very much.
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