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MOSCOW (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday Russia could defeat coronavirus in less than three months if it imposed tough measures quickly as authorities suspended all regular and charter flights to and from the country from Friday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a video link, held by leaders from the Group of 20 to discuss the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impacts, at his residence outside Moscow, Russia March 26, 2020. Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS

Moscow authorities said they would close all shops apart from food stores and pharmacies from this weekend as Russia reported its biggest one day rise in coronavirus cases yet, bringing its official tally to 840.

That figure remains much lower than in many European countries, but the mayor of Moscow told Putin on Tuesday that the real scale of the problem in the capital far exceeded official figures.

Putin, in a televised speech to the nation on Wednesday, unveiled new measures designed to slow the transmission of the virus, declaring next week a non-working week for many Russians and urging people to stay at home.

He discussed the moves at a televised meeting with entrepreneurs on Thursday.

“These are forced measures, they are temporary and forced. But they will be shorter, the more effective they are and frankly the tougher they are. Then this period will be reduced,” Putin said in televised comments.

“But when we finally get out of this situation, and we definitely will get out of it… I hope that will be even sooner than what you said (two-three months),” he said.

The government submitted legislation to parliament for review that would give it powers to declare an emergency across the country or in parts.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said the ministry was building 16 infectious diseases centres and planned to complete a first batch of eight by April 30 and the rest by May 16.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said all shops and shopping malls except those that sell food and pharmacies would be closed from March 28 to April 5. Restaurants, cafes and bars would also be closed, Sobyanin said in a statement.

The same measures would be implemented in the Moscow Region, which surrounds the capital, a local government decree said.

Under the airline restrictions, Russian flights will still be allowed to fly to other countries to bring Russian citizens back or if they are authorised by special government decisions, the government said on its website.

(This story is refiled to fix typo in headline)

Additional reporting by Anton Kolodyazhnyy, Darya Korsunskaya and Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Nick Macfie

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via Reuters

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