Social distancing marks are seen on the floor at the metro station during a partial lockdown imposed to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Moscow, Russia April 2, 2020. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/Files

Putin says worst case coronavirus scenario in Moscow averted as lockdown unwinds

MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday (May 27) that Moscow, the epicentre of Russia's coronavirus outbreak, had succeeded in preventing what he called the worst-case scenario as the city looked to easing tough lockdown measures within days.

Speaking to Moscow Mayor and ally Sergei Sobyanin by video conference, Putin said it was obvious the situation in the city of 12.7 million people had stabilised thanks to what he described as timely and focused steps taken by the authorities.

It was now time for Moscow to provide medical help to a handful of regions where the coronavirus remained rampant, said Putin, something Sobyanin said would be immediately organised.

"The situation in Moscow, like elsewhere in the country, is really stabilising. The number of coronavirus cases in Moscow has halved. More people are being discharged from hospital than being admitted," said Putin.

"It's obvious that it was possible to avoid the worst-case scenario."

Sobyanin told Putin he planned to loosen the capital's lockdown from JunĀ 1. Residents would be allowed to go out in the street and parks for walks at certain times, and non-food shops could reopen along with certain services such as dry-cleaners and repair shops.

He did not say anything about cancelling digital passes for people wanting to use public or private transport, however.

Russian authorities earlier on Wednesday reported 8,338 new coronavirus infections, pushing the overall case tally up to 370,680, the third highest in the world after Brazil and the United States. The total official death toll stands at 3,968, a much lower figure than many other countries.

Sobyanin said the overnight increase in coronavirus cases in Moscow had fallen to a low of 2,140. Previously, he said, daily infection increases were running at over 6,000 every day.

He also said that the number of seriously ill people in the Russian capital being hospitalised and those with coronavirus-related pneumonia had fallen by 40 per cent since May 12.