Dressed from head to toe in a hazardous materials suit and wearing a respirator, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited a suburban Moscow hospital Tuesday.
Putin praised the doctors at the Kommunarka hospital for doing their jobs “like clockwork” to combat coronavirus.
Russia has reported just 495 coronavirus cases so far with no confirmed deaths.
But Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, who heads the country’s coronavirus task force, told Putin that the real number is “significantly higher.”
“The fact is that testing volume is very low and no one on Earth knows the real picture,” the mayor said, adding that he thinks many Russians who traveled overseas are self-isolating.
“The momentum is high and a serious situation is unfolding,” he told Putin.
Moscow officials have already ordered all people 65 years and older to stay inside. Sobyanin is ordering all regions across the vast country to take the same step and be prepared even if they have no coronavirus patients.
“Otherwise, the healthcare system simply will not cope,” he warned.
To ease the stress on Moscow hospitals, city officials are telling anyone who is showing light symptoms to stay at home for treatment.
In the meantime, the pandemic appears to have little obvious impact on the daily lives of Muscovites. Restaurants are still open, streets are full of pedestrians, and stores are said to be well-stocked.
But all sports venues in the city have been closed. Police are checking taxi drivers to make sure they are wearing face masks and disinfecting their cabs, and travel to and from Russia has been curtailed.
The Russian capital has also installed about 100,000 special facial recognition cameras to make sure that anyone ordered to remain in quarantine stays off the streets.