03/17/2020, 09.01
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Russia's coronavirus infections are growing

by Vladimir Rozanskij

So far the official statistics speak of 93 positive cases;  the majority (83) would have contracted the infection abroad.  The country is closing communication links with neighboring nations.  Moscow limits meetings with more than 50 people.  No closure of churches;  distribution of communion with disposable spoons.  Patriarch Kirill celebrates 44 years of episcopal ordination.




 Moscow (AsiaNews) - The number of people tested positive for coronavirus in Russia more than tripled between March 15 and 16, going from 30 to 93. More adequate measures are beginning to be taken towards what appeared to be a problem "of others". 

Vice-premier Tatjana Golikova has assembled a special committee for the fight against the virus, making the recent numbers known (so far there was no official information on the matter), declaring that of the infected people "4 have recovered, 79 are hospitalized in isolation and  57 are mildly ill, without any symptoms;  only 2 people are in intensive care with respiratory problems". 

Of the 93 cases, the majority (83) reportedly contracted the virus abroad, while 7 Russians became infected from contacts within the country.  Golikova denied rumors that the days before the statistics were being hidden.

Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin is now developing official decrees for virus containment measures, from swabs to mobilizing medical and volunteer staff, to economic measures targeting the health system and people affected by the spread of the pandemic. 

Russia is also closing its main communication links with neighboring countries (entry from China had already been suspended for a month), including trains from Belarus, the main route for rail transport from Europe. 

So far there has been no mandatory closings for public places and crowded places, while for public events the current legislation already allows strict control.  Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that "the administration of the president does not believe that there is the need to declare a state of emergency in the country".

In Moscow, Mayor Sergei Sobjanin closed schools until April 10, and advised the elderly not to leave their homes.  All recreational activities involving more than 50 people are suspended in the capital and in the province.  All people who come to Moscow from Europe and the US will have to undergo two weeks of isolation.  In the country, one wonders whether it is not appropriate to move to stricter closure regimes, looking at the Chinese or Italian experience.

The Orthodox Church also begins to warn the faithful against "mass cultural demonstrations", as Metropolitan Ilarion (Alfeev) announced but "without interrupting liturgical celebrations in churches".  The Russian churches of those countries where the churches are included in the closing government decrees are an exception. 

The metropolitan also added that "the faithful who do not feel healthy are better off not coming to church", but reiterated that "according to the Church's doctrine, holy communion can only positively influence the person: it is a grace  which transmits a healing energy for the soul and the body ", provided that its distribution respects the necessary hygiene measures in times of epidemic.  In the churches of Perm, in the north of the Ural region, communion is distributed with disposable spoons.

The patriarch of Moscow Kirill (Gundjaev) decided to celebrate the solemn liturgy of March 14, the day of the 44th anniversary of his episcopal ordination, in his personal chapel dedicated to All Saints in the St. Daniel monastary, in the center of Moscow.  Only 4 clerics took part in the celebration on the altar, which is separate from the liturgical hall in the Orthodox churches, while several bishops and collaborators of the patriarchate remained at a distance at the foot of the altar, except one of those present who gifted a basket  of flowers to the patriarch.  Kirill himself gave a thank you speech for the greetings and best wishes that were brought to him, admitting that "I thought I would celebrate totally behind closed doors, but then I thought it would not be fair".

The first coronavirus victims were also recorded in Ukraine: a 71-year-old pensioner, probably infected by kissing the icons of a room in the Radomysl 'museum, where a group of tourists from Italy had recently passed.

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