June 18, 2020 / 7:45 AM / 19 days ago

Russia says preparing for new wave of coronavirus in autumn

FILE PHOTO: An employee walks through a disinfection tunnel manufactured by Russian company Mizotty at the company's factory in Penza, Russia, in this still image taken from undated handout video. Mizotty/Reuters TV via REUTERS

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Thursday it was already preparing for a new wave of the coronavirus pandemic in the autumn, after officials reported their lowest daily rise in new infections since May 1.

Russia has rapidly eased its lockdown restrictions in the past fortnight as it has reported a gradual decline in daily new infections, from a peak of 11,656 on May 11.

On Thursday, officials confirmed 7,790 new cases in the last 24 hours, pushing the nationwide tally to 561,091, as well as 182 deaths that brought the death toll to 7,660.

Speaking at a government meeting on state television, Anna Popova, the head of the state consumer health watchdog, said she hoped the outbreak would continue to recede this summer but that Russia must be ready it for to worsen.

“... the risks that this epidemic will return to growth and development in autumn are fairly high, we are currently preparing for that,” she said.

Kremlin critics have accused the authorities of lifting restrictions too fast to pave the way for a nationwide vote on reforms that would allow President Vladimir Putin run twice more for president after his current term ends in 2024.

The Kremlin has denied the decision to allow the vote to take place was politically motivated.

Residents of Moscow, Russia’s worse-hit region, were allowed this week to visit museums and restaurant terraces for the first time in more than two months.

The city is also preparing to hold a grand military parade in Moscow on June 24 to commemorate the Soviet World War Two victory.

Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov; additional reporting by Alex Marrow; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Alex Richardson

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