Putin reveals coronavirus outbreak at the Kremlin

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Vladimir Putin attends a session of the Council of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) held in Dushanbe, via a video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia September 16, 2021 - Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin/Reuters
Vladimir Putin attends a session of the Council of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) held in Dushanbe, via a video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia September 16, 2021 - Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin/Reuters

Vladimir Putin revealed on Thursday that “several dozen” of his closest Kremlin staff had tested positive for coronavirus, as he continued to self-isolate.

President Putin, who was reportedly inoculated with Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine earlier this year, had to skip a summit in Central Asia to discuss regional security in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan.

He appeared at the meeting via video link, telling other leaders that he had a good reason to take a rain check.

“I’m really sorry I had to cancel my visit...but this is connected to the fact that coronavirus cases have been detected in my inner circle - not just one or two but several dozen people,” he said.

“Now I’m having to self-isolate.”

Mr Putin began his isolation as Russia geared up for parliamentary elections that start on Friday and end on Sunday evening.

The Kremlin reported Mr Putin’s self-isolation earlier this week but did not reveal the scale of the outbreak.

His spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected suggestions that the outbreak was down to Kremlin staffers having failed to vaccinate.

Mr Peskov said everyone who worked with Mr Putin was double-jabbed, but had declining levels of antibodies.

“Everyone in Putin’s entourage who got sick was vaccinated a while ago,” Mr Peskov said.

“Their antibodies dropped but they did not get a booster jab in time.”

Mr Peskov said “practically everyone” who tested positive for Covid-19 at the Kremlin was either asymptomatic or had mild symptoms of the disease.

“There is not a single severe case,” he said.

Putin has mostly held meetings via videoconference since the start of the pandemic. Those who have been permitted to meet him in person have been obliged to quarantine for two weeks beforehand.

The Kremlin and Mr Putin’s out-of-town residence were fitted with industrial tunnels last year to spray a disinfectant mist on anyone who came into contact with him.

Russia has recorded more than seven million coronavirus cases and some 195,000 deaths, the highest death toll in Europe.

Authorities have struggled with a vaccine-sceptic population, as independent polls show a majority of Russians do not plan to be inoculated.

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