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article imagePutin has 'disinfection tunnel' to protect him from coronavirus

By AFP     Jun 17, 2020 in World

Visitors meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin at his country residence must first pass through a walk-through device that sprays them with disinfectant to protect him from the coronavirus, officials said.

The measures have provoked anger from some observers, given the authorities have ruled it is safe enough to hold nationwide referendum on July 1.

Putin has been self-isolating at his Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow under lockdown although he made a public appearance without a mask at an outdoor event on the June 12 Russia Day holiday.

As part of precautions to protect the president, visitors walk through the device and get sprayed from above and the side, a video posted Tuesday evening on Twitter by Kremlin pool journalists from RIA Novosti state news agency showed.

Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that two of the disinfection machines had also been installed in the Kremlin.

"They were installed during the height of the pandemic," he said, adding that anti-virus measures still in place at the Kremlin were "justified and understandable where the president is concerned".

The authorities in Penza region east of Moscow where the device was made boasted that it "ensured the safety of the head of government and all those who visit him."

The Penza regional government said the president's staff got in touch with the manufacturing company, which until the virus outbreak specialised in automatic cleaning equipment for industrial use.

- Virus test before meeting Putin -

The device includes facial recognition technology and can take people's temperatures, according to the manufacturers.

The Kremlin has imposed a range of measures to protect Putin, including regular virus testing of the leader and all those who come into contact with him.

Visitors have to take a virus test before meeting Putin, his spokesman said.

The president began holding video conference calls with officials in April, although there have been a few exceptions. On May 12 for example, he was shown meeting in person with the chief of oil giant Rosneft, Igor Sechin.

Despite these measures, some in Putin's circle have caught the virus, including Peskov, who said, however, that he had not met the president recently enough to have infected him.

In an apparent close brush with the virus in March, Putin was shown on television shaking hands with the chief doctor at a Moscow virus hospital while neither was wearing a mask. The doctor, Denis Protsenko, soon afterwards tested positive.

The elaborate precautions protecting Putin sparked anger from some as the Kremlin has ruled it is safe to hold a national vote on July 1 on constitutional changes that would allow him to serve another consecutive Kremlin term.

"Let them install this know-how at every polling station and then hold a vote," wrote a commentator, Aleks, on the website of Komsomolskaya Pravda tabloid.

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