Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday postponed a nationwide vote on proposed constitutional amendments that would allow him to seek another term in power.
Putin didn't set a new date for the plebiscite originally set for April 22, saying Wednesday that it would depend on how the new coronavirus pandemic develops.
He also announced during a televised address to the nation that the government doesn't want Russians except those working in essential sectors to come to work next week. He said that stores, pharmacies and banks will stay open.
“Health, life and safety of the people is an absolute priority for us,” Putin said.
Russian authorities reported 163 more virus cases in the country since the day before, bringing the national total to 658 on Wednesday. That marked a significantly bigger daily increase from previous days, when the number of new infections grew only by several dozens.
Russia's comparatively low caseload given its size and shared border with China have aroused doubts. On Tuesday, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin told Putin that the low number of cases in Russia could reflect insufficient screening rather than the actual scale of the epidemic and said the situation was “serious.”
Denis Protsenko, chief doctor of the top Moscow hospital treating COVID-19 patients, echoed the mayor's sentiment and later told Putin that Russia needed to “prepare for the Italian scenario.”