Dozens of Putin's entourage test COVID positive

Dozens of people in Vladimir Putin's entourage have tested positive for the coronavirus, the Russian leader said yesterday.

Dozens of people in Vladimir Putin's entourage have tested positive for the coronavirus, the Russian leader said yesterday, as his country struggles with high infection rates and a vaccine-sceptic population.

Earlier this week, 68-year-old Putin canceled all in-person events and said he was self-isolating after announcing an outbreak in the Kremlin.

"Cases of the coronavirus were detected in my inner circle. Not just one or two but several dozen people," Putin said, speaking via video link at a meeting of a Moscow-led security alliance.

Putin had been due to attend the meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organization in Tajikistan's capital Dushanbe in person, but said on Tuesday he would instead join remotely.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov yesterday told reporters that the outbreak was mainly among members of Putin's security detail.

He added that "practically everybody" who works with Putin is vaccinated.

While it remains unclear how long Putin will be in quarantine, Peskov said he will be self-isolating for "at least" another week.

News of the extent of the outbreak at the Kremlin comes a day before parliamentary elections open on Friday in Russia. They are staggered over three days to limit the spread of the virus.

Authorities have gone to great lengths to protect Putin – who said he has been vaccinated with Russia's Sputnik V jab – since the start of the pandemic.

Foreign leaders, journalists and officials have all had to self-isolate before meeting the longtime Russian leader. Putin this week met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and athletes returning from the Tokyo Paralympic Games, just before the Kremlin said he was self-isolating.

Russia has the fifth-highest number of recorded COVID cases in the world, and has struggled to rein in infections despite easy access to vaccines. According to the latest figures, the country has recorded more than seven million cases and 195,835 deaths, the highest death toll in Europe.

Infections have been falling in recent days after a spike this summer, but officials still reported 19,594 new cases and 794 new deaths yesterday.

Authorities have struggled with a vaccine-sceptic population, with independent polls showing a majority of Russians do not plan to be inoculated. As of yesterday, about 40.2 million of Russia's 146 million people had been vaccinated.

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