By Andrew Osborn and Polina Devitt
MOSCOW (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin said that Russian authorities had the coronavirus crisis under full control and that everything would work out with God’s help, even as the country on Sunday registered a record daily rise in cases of the new virus.
Russia on Sunday reported 6,060 new cases in the previous 24 hours, bringing its nationwide tally to 42,853, though the official death toll of 361 remains relatively low compared with other countries with a similar number of cases.
In a video message to congratulate Christians on the Orthodox Easter, Putin said the religious festival would strengthen Russians’ hope and faith because the resurrection of Christ was a powerful symbol of rebirth and a reminder that life goes on.
The Russian leader, who looked relaxed as he sat in front of a fireplace at his out of town Moscow residence, said his country had all the necessary resources to do what was needed for people’s health and the economy.
“All levels of power are working in an organised, responsible and timely way,” said Putin, who was flanked by painted Easter eggs, a traditional Orthodox Kulich sweet bread, and a big pot of tea.
“The situation is under full control. All of our society is united in front of the common threat.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted by the RIA news agency as saying there was hope that signs might start appearing next week that the number of cases, which has risen relentlessly, might begin to plateau.
Authorities and clerics have urged Christians to stay at home during the Orthodox Easter weekend for their own safety, though a senior cleric urged police on Saturday to be lenient on those who still try to make it to church.
Coronavirus infections in Russia began rising sharply in April after Moscow reported far fewer infections than many western European countries in the outbreak’s early stages.
Some Russian doctors questioned the veracity of those early statistics given what they said was the low quality and scale of testing, although Russian authorities say they have carried out 1.94 million tests as of Sunday, a feat they say puts them in the top three countries for testing.
Russia’s coronavirus epicentre is in Moscow, the capital, where 24,324 cases had been recorded and 176 people had died as of Sunday.
Private testing results seen by Reuters among people without symptoms suggest the virus has penetrated more deeply into Moscow’s population than the official data show, however.
(Reporting by Andrew Osborn and Polina Devitt; Additional reporting by Gleb Stolyarov; Editing by Hugh Lawson)