MOSCOW, March 24 — Russian authorities do not know the full extent of the coronavirus outbreak across the country and should step up measures to stem the pandemic, a top official said today.

Russia, which shares a border with China and has a population of 144 million, has so far reported 495 cases of the coronavirus but no confirmed fatalities.

“The problem is that the volume of testing is very low and nobody has a clear picture” of the situation in Russia and the world, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin told President Vladimir Putin during a meeting.

“The picture that is unfolding is serious,” said Sobyanin, who heads an anti-coronavirus task force on Russia’s Security Council.

He said the number of people infected with the coronavirus was “significantly” higher than official figures.

Putin has said repeatedly the coronavirus outbreak is under control in Russia.

The country has gradually tightened restrictions, halting cultural and sports events and closing schools and fitness clubs. 

It has also closed borders to almost all non-citizens.

Sobyanin yesterday requested that older Muscovites stay at home.

However, unlike many countries in Asia and Europe, the national government has not ordered any confinement.

Today, Sobyanin said other Russian regions should tighten up anti-coronavirus measures even if they do not have a high number of Covid-19 patients.

“Not all regions understand” the seriousness of the situation, Sobyanin said. “Regardless of whether they have sick people or not they all should get ready.” 

He singled out the Far East’s Primorsky Region, which shares a border with China, saying if thousands of people travelled across the border recently then “it’s a problem, a big problem”.

“And sooner or later the problem will rear its head.” — AFP