Putin warns Russia's virus outbreak could get worse

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during annual news conference in Moscow, Russia December 20, 2018. (REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo)

Russian President on Wednesday said the country's outbreak had stabilised but warned the situation remained difficult and could easily deteriorate.

Russia has registered the fourth-highest number of infections in the world and health officials on Wednesday reported a total of 828,990 cases and 13,673 fatalities.

Officials eased most virus restrictions in June ahead of a large military parade in Moscow and a nationwide vote on constitutional reforms that could extend Putin's rule.

"The number of coronavirus infections in Russia gradually decreased in June and July," Putin said during a video conference with officials, adding that the number of new cases had halved since the peak in May.

Yet Putin cautioned that, "the situation remains difficult -- it could swing in any direction".

The president called on Russians to observe the rules in place to prevent the spread of the virus to avoid any need to "re-impose restrictions, especially large-scale ones".

It was important that "kindergartens, colleges, and organisations can work safely, in the regular manner to which people are accustomed", he added.

Russia shuttered businesses and imposed a strict lockdown in March to slow the outbreak which centred around Moscow where around half the cases were reported.

Health officials on Wednesday reported 5,475 new cases in the country.

A government tally during the peak of the epidemic in May reported more than 11,000 new cases.

Only India, Brazil and the worst-hit country, the United States, have recorded higher total numbers of infections than Russia.

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