July 14, 2020 / 9:53 AM / a month ago

Russia's sovereign wealth fund eyes virus-free airport hubs

MOSCOW, July 14 (Reuters) - Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), is undertaking a pilot project to create coronavirus-free airport hubs in three countries, its Chief Executive Kirill Dmitriev said on Tuesday.

A number of countries are re-opening international travel, trying to rebuild their economies hit by prolonged lockdowns. Russia may restart international flights from July 15, a senior official said last week.

“Because the cost of testing represents a tiny fraction of potential economic losses, we are currently undertaking pilot projects in three countries to create virus-free airport hubs that would allow tourism activity to safely resume,” Dmitriev said in an opinion piece in Newsweek Magazine.

With nearly 740,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, Russia has developed its own testing systems and is working on a number of anti-coronavirus drugs. RDIF is focusing on its drug Avifavir, known in Japan, where it was first developed, as Avigan.

Dmitriev said that Avifavir was bought by Columbia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and a number of other countries, so RDIF and its partner, ChemRar, have increased production to 300,000 courses per month, or nearly threefold.

More than 100 vaccines are being developed and tested around the world to stop the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Gamaleya Institute in Russia has begun human trials of its own experimental vaccine.

It hopes to start its final stage testing in mid-August. RDIF and its Russian partners have initially planned to produce the vaccine at home.

“By producing this vaccine through manufacturing partnerships in several countries, we will be able to ramp up production to 200 million doses by year’s end,” Dmitriev said without providing other details. (Reporting by Katya Golubkova, editing by Louise Heavens)

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