Russia is struggling with COVID-19 / Image=Gyubin Lee
[Newsphopick=Gyubin Lee] Russia hit a grim Covid-19 milestone this week: According to Johns Hopkins University, the country now ranks second in the world for confirmed coronavirus cases.
The Russian capital has been the hardest hit. Of Russia's total of 281,752 confirmed cases, over half -- 142,824 -- are in Moscow, the country's coronavirus headquarters said Sunday. But the virus is now spreading across Russia's regions, an enormous landmass that covers 11 time zones and includes some of the country's most remote and impoverished places.
In a video conference meeting on Monday with Russia's 85 regional heads, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the burden would fall to local leaders to decide whether to continue lockdown measures or to begin cautiously lifting restrictions to reopen the economy.
"We have a big country," he said. "The epidemiological situation varies across the regions. We factored this in before, and now at the next stage, we have to act even more specifically and carefully."
According to official statistics, the pandemic has reached all of Russia's constituent parts, from the Kaliningrad exclave between Poland and Lithuania to the remote Chukotka autonomous okrug, across the Bering Strait from Alaska.
Russia's regions are also starting to report their own numbers, sometimes showing a disparity between the nationally published statistics on mortality and infections published on the portal and on local government websites.