Russia plans to start clinical trials of vaccines for the novel coronavirus in June, the country's health minister announced on Wednesday.
Scientists working on the vaccines say the first batch could be available by late July, Mikhail Murashko told the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament.
“I expect that in July, probably the last 10 days of the month, the first medicines will appear,” he said.
He said a number of drugs that have proven effective in curing COVID-19 patients will soon be included in clinical treatment plans.
On the exponential rise in coronavirus cases in Russia, he said the situation is “tense but manageable” and the country’s health system is prepared to deal with the crisis.
He said over 100,000 patients, including 4,000 children, are being treated in hospitals right now, while a larger number – 140,000, including 10,000 children – are in isolation at homes with mild symptoms.
- Skewed comparison
In a separate statement, Russia's chief sanitary officer Anna Popova shot down the significance of the country having the second-highest number of cases in the world.
She argued that Russia’s fatality rate from COVID-19 was 158.3 per 100,000 people, which puts the country well down on the list of 187 countries with confirmed cases.
“It is absolutely impossible to compare the number of cases in a country of more than 100 million people with a country where the population does not exceed 10 million,” she said.
Popova said most cases in Russia were mild infections that were easy to treat and carried a low risk of fatality.
She said this was because of the tough measures taken by the government at the start of the outbreak, including closing borders to foreigners, placing Russians returning from abroad in quarantine, mass testing, announcing national non-working periods, and boosting hospital facilities.
The overall case count in Russia reached 242,271 on Wednesday, following yet another daily tally of over 10,000.
The death toll rose to 2,212 with 96 more fatalities, while 4,491 recoveries pushed the total to 48,003.
A total of 259,000 people remain under medical surveillance, according to the emergency task force’s daily report.
Five top Russian officials, including Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, have also tested positive for COVID-19 over the past two weeks.
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