Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said he tested positive for the new coronavirus and is temporarily suspending duties in office, becoming the most recent head of government to contract the disease.
Mr. Mishustin, who has served as head of the Russian government since his predecessor, Dmitry Medvedev, handed in his surprise resignation in January, said in a televised videoconference with Russian President Vladimir Putin that the work of the government would continue.
Mr. Putin appointed First Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Belousov, previously Mr. Putin’s economic adviser, as acting head of the government for an unspecified period.
Russia has lagged behind weeks behind other European countries and is only now approaching what experts expect to be the peak of infections. A new daily record of 7,099 infections was registered Thursday, bringing the country’s total to 106,498 cases. The country has registered 1,073 deaths so far.
The diagnosis of the prime minister, 54, throws into question plans to lift quarantine measures from May 12. Like other countries, Russia’s government faces a balancing act between serving public health and restarting an economy that has been battered by both the quarantine and lower oil prices. The lockdown measures have drawn local protests.
Messrs. Putin and Mishustin in their televised meeting repeated the government’s call for Russians to stay indoors through the May holidays. The president has been holding televised online meetings since the beginning of April to prevent the spread of coronavirus among members of the government.
Mr. Mishustin had tried in previous weeks to limit contact with others as part of quarantine measures, but was still in personal contact with a number of aides and other government officials, Russian newspaper Vedomosti reported. Mr. Mishustin is married with three sons.
“Call when you get to the hospital,” Mr. Putin told Mr. Mishustin in the online meeting. “I’ll be waiting for your call.”
The conversation, which was also carried on the Kremlin website, didn’t disclose how Mr. Mishustin is believed to have contracted the virus.
Unlike Mr. Putin, who as president decides Russian foreign and military policy, Mr. Mishustin and the government are in charge of domestic and economic decisions. The prime minister had been tasked with jump-starting the country’s long-stagnant economy, though quarantine measures and a weaker currency will likely cause gross domestic product to tumble this year.
The announcement follows a scare in late March when the country’s top coronavirus doctor tested positive for Covid-19 a week after he met with Mr. Putin for a presidential inspection of facilities to treat those suffering with the disease.