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Russian military to combat coronavirus outbreak in Siberia

Russian military to combat coronavirus outbreak in Siberia
Russian military personnel prepare to leave Serbia on Monday after a 44-day humanitarian mission to help combat the coronavirus. Photo courtesy of Russian Defense Ministry

May 18 (UPI) -- Russia's defense ministry will send teams to combat a coronavirus outbreak in Siberia's Krasnoyarsk region, it announced on Monday.

The order to involve Russia's military came from President Vladimir Putin, during a videoconference with 85 regional leaders, saying that decisions on lockdown measures and a following lifting of restrictions would be made by local leaders and not the federal government, Russian news agency TASS reported.

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The area, between the Ural Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, comprises 13 percent of Russia's territory but only 2.8 million people.

"We have a big country," Putin said. "The epidemiological situation varies across the regions. We factored this in before, and now at the next stage, we have to act even more specifically and carefully."

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The military team, consisting of 200 service personnel, 77 medical personnel and 100 unidentified examples of specialized equipment, will be deployed through the Krasnoyarsk region, the ministry said. It will also establish a 1,000-bed temporary hospital, conduct disinfecting actions and treat patients.

The order came after a 400-bed makeshift hospital was installed at Krasnoyarsk's Olimpiadinsky gold mining operation, Russia's largest, when the coronavirus was detected at the facility in early May.

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Russia now ranks second in the world, behind the United States, in confirmed coronavirus cases, with nearly 300,000 reported cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than half have occurred in the Moscow area, but the virus is speeding across Russia's land mass, which includes 11 time zones.

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Official statistics indicate that the virus has reached all areas of the country, although local and federal counts have differed and accusations have been made that the national coronavirus headquarters has undercounted fatalities.

The Russian military said Monday it gained experience in handling coronavirus outbreaks in Serbia, where it concluded a 44-day humanitarian operation. The last of 87 military personnel with training in epidemiology and virology returned to Moscow on Monday, the Russian defense ministry said.

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