There has been at least 495 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Russia, according to John Hopkins University

By Gabrielle Chung
March 24, 2020 06:24 PM
ALEXEI DRUZHININ/Shutterstock

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread around the world, Russian President Vladimir Putin took extra precautionary measures and wore protective gear during his visit to a hospital in Moscow on Tuesday.

The 67-year-old politician was seen wearing a yellow hazmat suit at the Kommunarka medical center, which has been repurposed to treat coronavirus patients, as he toured the facilities.

During the visit, Putin also wore a breathing mask, blue gloves and disposable shoe covers.

While John Hopkins University reports that there have been 495 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Russia, the official transcript from Putin’s meeting with Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin and other health officials before his hospital visit suggests there may be more as “testing levels are too low” to determine an accurate number.

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“We already have some 500 coronavirus cases. Some of them have not been confirmed yet, we are working on it,” Sobyanin said in the conference, according to meeting notes shared on the president’s website.

According to Anna Popova, the Head of the Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare, there have been 290 confirmed cases with 150 people waiting for test results in Moscow alone.

“We believe that, realistically, between 80 and 90 percent of them will test positive. But the difference between 400 and 500 cases is not that big,” Sobyanin said. “The dynamic is high, the situation is becoming serious, especially since many people who have returned from abroad are staying at home and have not been tested.”

Sobyanin went on to say “no one actually knows … the real situation around the world.”

Coronavirus cases around the world as of March 24
Martin Schwartz/PEOPLE

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“This is not a question of good or bad. This is the objective reality everywhere,” he said. “For this reason, all regions without exception, whether they have infected people or not, have to be prepared.”

In the meeting, Sobyanin also said local officials have introduced quarantine measures for people age 65 or over, as the elderly are the most vulnerable to the coronavirus.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there have been at least 399,500 cases of COVID-19 and 17,902 coronavirus-related deaths in 166 countries, according to a New York Times database.

The first cases of a mysterious respiratory illness — what is now known as COVID-19, a form of coronavirus — began in Wuhan, China in late December. Since then, the virus has spread worldwide, leading the World Health Organization to declare a public health emergency, the first since the zika epidemic in 2016.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.

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