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22 May 202012:03

Extract from the briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, May 21, 2020

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Update on the coronavirus pandemic and assisting Russian citizens in returning home

We will start with the subject that continues to be the focus of world news: the current situation on the coronavirus. As you know, the new coronavirus infection continues spreading all over the world. The total number of infected people continues to grow and now exceeds 5 million. 

The 73rd session of the World Health Assembly, the highest governing body of the WHO, has adjourned in Geneva. The participants reaffirmed their intention to build up the consolidated potential of cooperation in the face of this dangerous global challenge. This is the genuine mission of this organisation. In this context, the occasional speculations on the organisation and attempts to turn the WHO into a venue for settling some political grievance are particularly inappropriate.

Under these circumstances, Russia continues to organise the evacuation of Russian citizens who want to return home from abroad. According to Rosaviatsia, last week 3,202 of our compatriots were assisted in returning to Russia (in all, over 236,000 people have been brought home since March 18).  

The Foreign Ministry is guided by Government directives on limiting the number of arriving passengers to prevent new outbreaks of the disease. We plan the schedule for return flights in cooperation with our colleagues from Rosaviatsia, the Ministry of Communications and Mass Media, the Ministry of Transport, and Rospotrebnadzor. Considering the enormous and unprecedented challenge facing the entire world, both the Russian regions and civil society are involved in these efforts.

The geography of departing flights is constantly expanding to new territories. On May 14-16, Russia’s Royal Flight Airlines carried Russian citizens from Mauritius, South Africa, Botswana and Tanzania. In all, 280 people were brought home, including 97 from South Africa. The same flight took humanitarian aid to South Africa – a consignment of test systems for identifying COVID-19, which were developed by the Vector State Research Centre of Virology and Biotechnology.   

At present, another Royal Flight plane is on the way to Russia. It has 205 Russians aboard from two Indian cities: Trivandrum and Kolkata. As a reminder, flights to these cities had been cancelled several times for various reasons. Now these flights are taking place. Regrettably, many passengers who registered for a return flight changed their mind at the last moment. Some passengers simply did not show up. This explains why the planes are not full, but this is the personal choice of each passenger. Our task is to continue this effort, and we will continue to do so. Today, our citizens are also returning from Athens and Colombo. We expect Russian citizens to return soon from Dubai, Bishkek, Tashkent, Goa, New York, Malaysia and Cambodia.

Our return programme has been ongoing for two months and is based on an algorithm that was approved in early April. This algorithm is continuously being upgraded and will be improved in the future with due account for the epidemiological situation in Russia and its regions, and also in the countries where our citizens need assistance.

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