Russia is to create a 300 billion ruble (US$4 billion) anti-crisis fund to try to shield its economy from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said yesterday.
Moscow has said it might miss its growth targets this year and global markets have been bruised by the impact of the virus.
A sharp drop in the price of oil, Russia’s main export, has left Russia particularly vulnerable, with the rouble sinking to four-year lows against the US dollar.
The Russian Ministry of Finance and the Russian central bank have already pledged support to everything from the banking sector to the rouble and the state debt market, and attention is now focused on a key interest rate meeting set for Friday.
New support measures would include tax breaks for tourism companies and airlines, and that Russia would expand its preferential loans program for businesses, Mishustin said.
Andrei Belousov, his first deputy, last week said that Russia might miss its economic growth target this year, originally set at 2 percent, while economists have warned that the country’s economy might turn negative amid low oil prices and slower business activity.
Russia has 63 confirmed COVID-19 cases and is building a new hospital outside Moscow to prepare for a possible increase in numbers. That is in addition to a hospital that was recently converted to treat coronavirus patients only.
There have been no deaths from the virus in Russia so far, authorities say.
Russia is already restricting passenger flights and has halted many trains to Europe.
Russia would close its border with Belarus as well, Mishustin said.
Russia has recommended that institutions of higher education switch to distance learning, while the city of Moscow has made school attendance optional.
There have been some signs of panic buying. Shelves over the weekend in a number of Moscow shops were lacking toilet paper, washing powder and canned products, as well as rice and flour.
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