After several weeks of floating, Russia is strengthening its containment measures to fight the Covid-19 epidemic. The example came from the top of the state with the announcement, Wednesday, April 1, that President Vladimir Putin had opted for telework.

"The president prefers these days to do everything by telework" from his residence in Novo-Ogarevo, near Moscow, said Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov, minutes from a meeting between Vladimir Putin and the Russian government, which was to take place unusually by videoconference. "Everyone is now observing social distancing," replied the spokesman, when asked if Putin would continue to shake hands with his interlocutors.

The statement comes when the chief medical officer of the main Moscow hospital treating patients with Covid-19, who had welcomed Vladimir Putin in his establishment last week, announced Tuesday that he was infected.

Denis Protsenko, the chief doctor of Kommounarka hospital, a suburb of Moscow, which has become the main establishment treating the patients of Covid-19, announced Tuesday to be infected, but not to have worrying symptoms. On March 24, he welcomed 67-year-old Vladimir Putin to his establishment during a highly publicized visit.

Digital tracking of confined people

The announcement of Vladimir Putin's telework follows the government's decision on Tuesday to tighten up digital tracing to monitor compliance with confinement.

Prime Minister Mikhail Michoustine notably ordered the Russian communications and interior ministries "with the help of mobile operators" to check that all people placed under house arrest after a stay abroad respect this measure.

In Moscow, where confinement has been imposed on the entire population since Monday, Mayor Sergei Sobianin has ordered to do the same for the 12 million inhabitants officially registered.

Sergei Sobianin had already indicated that he wanted to set up "absolute control" for this purpose thanks to new technologies, in particular his enormous network of surveillance cameras with facial recognition.

For its part, the Yandex group, the Russian leader in digital technology with its search engine and geolocation applications, has set up a "self-isolation map" of major Russian cities in order to assess it using data from its users compliance with containment measures.

At the same time, Russian deputies adopted severe punishments on Tuesday for breaches of confinement, ranging from a fine of 500,000 rubles (5,800 euros at the current rate) to seven years in prison depending on the case.

Before the coronavirus crisis, many NGOs expressed concern that the Russian government would invest in new technologies in order to exercise greater control over the population.

Half of the Russian population has been placed in containment since Monday to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Some 2,777 cases have been officially recorded in the country, including 24 deaths.

With AFP

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