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Russia’s Putin Protected From Coronavirus By Disinfection Tunnels

A worker is disinfected in a tunnel at Vladimir Putin’s Moscow residence. There are concerns users of such tunnels may inhale cleaning solutions.
Credit: RIA

Vladimir Putin has been protected from coronavirus by a disinfection tunnel that anyone visiting his residence outside Moscow must pass through, the Russian president’s spokesman said.

Two of the futuristic tunnels, which shower users in a “disinfecting aerosol”, have been installed at the Kremlin, and another at the Russian president’s residence near Moscow, where he holds face-to-face meetings, a spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told journalists on Wednesday.

“They were installed when the epidemic was in full swing,” Peskov said, saying that “extra precautions are justifiable and understandable where the president is concerned”.

Peskov did not say whether Putin himself had used the tunnels, which also emitted a bath of ultraviolet light, could employ facial recognition technology, and tested a visitor’s body temperature, according to a product description on the manufacturer’s website. The use of similar tunnels has been reported in China, Mexico, and Bosnia. They have been controversial because of concerns users may inhale cleaning solutions in aerosol form.

Demonstration footage of the tunnel, published by RIA Novosti, showed masked people passing through it being sprayed with a disinfectant mist from the ceiling and sides that covered their clothes and any exposed upper-body flesh.

In managing Russia’s coronavirus crisis, Putin has vacillated between personal feats of daring and extreme caution. On 24 March, he donned a yellow hazmat suit and visited Moscow’s main coronavirus hospital, stopping to take selfies with hospital staff and later shaking hands with the hospital’s chief doctor, Denis Protsenko.

But when Protsenko was diagnosed with coronavirus, Putin halted his public appearances and disappeared from view. When he did address the public, it was from a windowless room believed to be at his residence outside of Moscow’s suburbs, a location critics ridiculed as his “bunker.”Advertisement

The tunnel is manufactured by a Russian company based in the town of Penza that specialises in cleaning parts for manufacturing equipment. With the onset of coronavirus, the factory was tasked with developing antiseptic dispensers, and presented the “disinfecting tunnel” as ideal for hospitals and care homes.

Vladimir Putin wearing a yellow hazmat suit inspecting Moscow’s main coronavirus hospital in March.
 Vladimir Putin wearing a yellow hazmat suit inspecting Moscow’s main coronavirus hospital in March.
Credit: Alexey Druzhinin/ Sputnik/ AFP

“The Penza factory has not just completed this task but has ensured the safety of the country’s leader and all those who visit him,” the Penza government boasted in a press release. It noted that the tunnel bore the words: “Made in Penza.”

The contents of the antiseptic spray have not been revealed, although the company previously manufactured cleaning solutions.

Russia’s Gamalei national research centre for epidemiology and microbiology said on Wednesday it was beginning clinical trials for a coronavirus vaccine on members of the military and on civilians. The tests would take a month and a half, the state news agency Tass reported..

Peskov said in April that anyone meeting Putin in person was tested for the virus. A month later, he said he had been infected.

Russia has recorded more than 500,000 infections, the third highest in the world after Brazil and the US, figures it attributed to a large testing programme.

The country has registered more than 7,000 deaths, fewer than many other countries, but critics doubt the accuracy of the figures.

Putin is keen to roll back coronavirus restrictions. He has rescheduled Russia’s parade celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany and a referendum that will allow him to remain in office until 2036 for the next few weeks.


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