Russia closes border with Belarus and announces economic relief measures
In an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus, Moscow has decided to suspend the flow of people across the border with Belarus, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin announced on Monday. He also unveiled 300 billion rubles ($4 billion) in federal subsidies to prop up Russia’s economy.
Additionally, Mishustin ordered the state to develop a special procedure to pay sick leave to those in Russia who must be quarantined in the fight against the spread of COVID-19. Travel agencies, airlines, and potentially other industries will receive tax deferrals as part of the relief efforts of the government, which says it will raise subsidies to small- and medium-sized businesses.
The prime minister also suggested the creation of a “green corridor” for importing essential goods and advocated lifting transportation restrictions on retail chains in cities.
Mishustin is urging the adoption of a law that would permit the home delivery of over-the-counter medicines ordered online. He also proposes a foundation to reward doctors who distinguish themselves in the fight against coronavirus. To keep the public informed about the developing COVID-19 pandemic, the prime minister says Russia will launch an “online notification” system.
According to the newspaper Kommersant, the Russian government will release a comprehensive list before March 18 detailing its economic, regulatory, and administrative measures during the coronavirus pandemic. The proposed steps will reportedly include school holidays, state guarantees on strategic enterprises, and limits on audits of businesses. The newspaper Vedomosti previously reported that the government plans to allow state-owned companies to defer dividend payments. Government loans could also become available to regions now implementing Russia’s federal economic development plan.
Russia has currently restricted movement across most of its borders. As of March 16, air travel to the European Union, Switzerland, and Norway is heavily restricted, with flights to the EU available only through a single terminal at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and only to the European Union’s capital cities. Charter flights to other destinations are still permitted, however.