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‘Crisis situations here and there’ The Kremlin’s spokesman on the handling of the coronavirus pandemic’s second wave

Source: Meduza
Sergey Karpukhin / TASS / Scanpix / LETA

Talking to journalists on Tuesday about Russia’s second wave of coronavirus infections, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted that the country’s healthcare system is holding up better now that at the start of the pandemic. Peskov acknowledged that medical resources are never enough in any nation, but he argued that the spread of COVID-19 is better under control in Russia than in many places around the world.

Ekho Moskvy: Regarding the appeals from doctors from different regions, including from Kurgan. They’re appealing to the president, [...] urging [the authorities] to believe doctors and not reporting officials. How many such messages does the Kremlin receive and how do they assess the situation with the spread of covid and the preparedness of medical institutions in the regions, especially at the district level?

Dmitry Peskov: Here, certainly, it will be necessary to verify how effectively the feedback from regional medical institutions to the regional leadership works. This, of course, needs to be done. Indeed, appeals are now coming [in] […] addressed to the Health Ministry and the Cabinet, and Mishustin, and Putin […] Of course, we need to find out why medical institutions aren’t turning to regional health ministries and governors in the first place. This is the first thing.

Secondly, we need to note the federal government and health ministry’s lightning-fast response. You know that they have already responded to the appeal from Kurgan. And in general, they are extremely attentive to this now and react very quickly. That is, they send medical assistance, allocate additional funds and methodological assistance, and so on.

Ekho Moskvy: But in any case, has this not shaken the Presidential Executive Office’s confidence in the official figures?

Dmitry Peskov: No, we can’t talk about that. The fact is that these are the official figures — and let’s recall that the president has explained this more than once…The president said that of course these are the official figures — after all, these are, as they say, the average figures for the hospital. And, of course, against the backdrop of such unprecedented epidemiological outbreaks, crisis situations arise here and there. Another thing is that they need to be analyzed very carefully, so as not to allow such problems to later flourish and become systemic. But conceptually speaking, of course, the healthcare system is still much better prepared for the epidemiological stress that it is now experiencing all around the world. 

Ekho Moskvy: And is the Kremlin trying to somehow rethink, perhaps, those reforms that have taken palace in the medical sector in recent years, including optimization? Because if we again talk about what is happening in the regions at the level of district hospitals, essentially they’ve ceased to act as general medical institutions and are all working only with covid. To what extent is this a subject for the president and his administration to examine or not?

Dmitry Peskov: This is a completely new phenomenon. The epidemic. We haven’t faced [one] for a long time, or rather, we are probably in the latest and newest [epidemic] in history, we haven’t faced such a phenomenon in many generations. Moreover, we haven’t encountered a pandemic. Therefore, naturally, each country reacts to the best of its ability. We have a lot of possibilities in this regard. And the situation here is much more stable in terms of medical care than in many countries of the world. I’m talking about the advanced countries of the world. This is an unambiguous fact. The fact that there are problems [is], unfortunately, inevitable, and the essence of the job is not to turn them into systemic problems. This is what we are working on.

You asked if the Kremlin needs to think about medical reform? The answer is obvious. It doesn’t need to. Because if journalists or Kremlin employees were to work on medical reform nothing good would come of it. Specialists should be thinking about this, we have enough of them. 

Ekho Moskvy: As for another appeal, several well-known people and foundations turned to the president, referring to the situation with medicines for seriously ill children with cancer…

Dmitry Peskov: This is within the framework of the answer that I gave. You know that the medical sector, as they say, the health sector of the government, has already responded to this and is working to fix the situation. 

Ekho Moskvy: But here the question is about the president, because the distribution of financial resources to different sectors depends on the president. Does the president think that the medical sector in Russia is funded sufficiently compared to other [countries] or is this pandemic forcing [the Kremlin] to rethink spending in the future?

Dmitry Peskov: You know, there’s not a single country in the world where the medical sector is funded sufficiently. 

Ekho Moskvy: But still, there are countries where, at least in terms of GDP and the percentage [spent on] other areas, medicine is still financed more than in Russia. 

Dmitry Peskov: Certainly. But even there, it’s believed that it’s funded insufficiently. You can verify this easily.

Ekho Moskvy: That is, in this sense, the pandemic hasn’t become something that will make the president look at the percentage of funding for medicine differently?

Dmitry Peskov: It has for everyone. The pandemic has become a reason for everyone to think about conceptual development and so on in general. Including for the president.