Putin’s Virus Staycation Isn’t A Holiday After All, Kremlin Says

(Bloomberg) --

A week-long paid national holiday announced by President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday apparently doesn’t mean people should stop working, according to a Kremlin spokesman.

“Those who have been working remotely will continue to work next week,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on an unscheduled conference call with reporters Friday. “It’s not days off or holidays in the classical understanding of that word.”

The reversal was a stark example of how the fast-moving coronavirus crisis has undermined the Kremlin’s ability to get its message out clearly. Many schools and universities, which have already shifted to online instruction, had canceled classes next week but Peskov said they should continue them.

Putin’s Coronavirus Holiday Deepens Crisis for Companies

Peskov said the announcement wasn’t a change but a clarification of Putin’s declaration of next week as “an official non-working period while maintaining wages.” The Higher School of Economics estimated that giving the country the week off would cut gross domestic product by about 1% this year.

Resorts Closed

“Decisions have to be made on the fly and then corrected,” said Alexei Makarkin, deputy director of the Center for Political Technologies in Moscow. “The population has difficulty recognizing the seriousness of what’s happening so the authorities need something to occupy people, particularly students.”

On Thursday, Peskov said that there was no epidemic in Russia at the same time Moscow and St. Petersburg ordered non-essential businesses to close in order to slow the contagion rate.

Putin’s initial announcement led to a surge in bookings of hotel reservations in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Authorities in the region canceled all bookings from Saturday, with the local governor Venyamin Kondratyev saying the week off was given “as a chance to stay home, to minimize contact and movement, to limit the spread of coronavirus.”

Russia Friday reported a 30% increase in infections in a day, bringing the total to 1,036, with three deaths attributed to the virus.

Another initiative Putin announced Wednesday -- a new tax on interest on some bank deposits -- has triggered widespread confusion among depositors as authorities have struggled to explain who will face the new levy.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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