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Putin’s spokesman hospitalized with coronavirus

Putin’s spokesman hospitalized with coronavirus 1

By Mary Ilyushina and Rob Picheta | CNN

Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been hospitalized with coronavirus, he told state-run news agency RIA Novosti on Tuesday.

The development makes Peskov the latest of a number of senior Russian political figures to contract Covid-19, raising concerns about its spread throughout the Kremlin.

Putin himself has largely been working from a residence in the Moscow region via videoconferencing, with only a few in-person meetings. Peskov told the TASS news agency later on Tuesday that the last time the two men met in person was “over a month ago.”

Three Russian ministers have previously tested positive for the virus, including Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, who is still in hospital, as well as Minister of Culture Olga Lyubimova and Minister of Housing Vladimir Yakushev.

Peskov’s announcement comes as Russia struggles to contain its outbreak of the coronavirus. The country now has more confirmed cases — 232,000 — than anywhere in the world outside of the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University figures.

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While the country’s official death toll is relatively low, with more than 2,000 fatalities reported, some critics and experts say the figure is almost certainly underestimated. Moscow’s mortality rate surged by 18% in April compared to the same month last year, as well as compared to the April average for the past decade, according to data released by the city’s civil register office.

The situation has led to growing anger in the country, with concerns raised about the conditions in which medical workers are forced to operate.

Hours before Peskov confirmed his diagnosis, a fire at a hospital in Russia left at least five coronavirus patients dead. The fire broke out on the sixth floor of an intensive care unit at the St. George Hospital in St. Petersburg, killing five people connected to ventilating equipment, TASS reported, citing medical personnel.

According to initial findings, the fire may have been caused by a short circuit in a ventilator or its malfunction, state news agencies said.

It was the second deadly blaze at a medical facility in recent days; on Saturday, another fire at a Moscow hospital killed one person and forced the evacuation of patients, Russian state news agencies reported.

Before those incidents, three frontline health care workers fell out of hospital windows in Russia over the space of two weeks, heightening public attention to the working conditions for doctors and medical professionals.

All three incidents, which are being investigated by Russian law enforcement authorities, prompted intense discussion in the Russian press and on social media.

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