Putin announces national week off, postpone vote in Russia due to COVID-19

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SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - MARCH 16: (RUSSIA OUT) Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures during his meeting with health workers at the Almazov Medical National Research Centre on March 16, 2018 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The 2018 Russian Presidential Elections will take place on March 18. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Wednesday a national week off to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“Now it is extremely important to prevent the threat of the rapid spread of the disease. Therefore, I declare next week nonworking with the preservation of wages. The week will run from Saturday, March 28 to Sunday, April 5,” Putin said in an address on national television.

He also said an April 22 vote on constitutional amendments will be postponed.

“You know how seriously I take this, but the absolute priority for us is the health, life and safety of people, so I think that the vote should be postponed to a later date. We will assess the situation in the regions and in the country, and only based on professional opinion, recommendations of doctors and specialists, we will make a decision on a new voting day,” he said.

Authorities announced 163 new COVID-19 cases in Russia in the last 24 hours, bringing the figure to 658 across 55 regions.

Some 29 people have recovered and were discharged from hospitals since the beginning of the pandemic.

After emerging in Wuhan, China last December, the virus has spread to at least 172 countries and regions.

Out of more than 438,000 confirmed cases globally, the death toll is now closing in on 20,000. More than 111,000 have recovered, according to data compiled by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

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