Russians have withdrawn more than $13 billion in cash from their bank accounts since early March amid fears over the coronavirus crisis, according to a report. Around 1 trillion rubles ($13.6 billion) was taken out of ATMs and bank branches in Russia over the past seven weeks, Bloomberg reported. The amount totaled more than was withdrawn in the whole of 2019.
According to Bloomberg, daily spikes in withdrawals came around the time Russian President Vladimir Putin detailed measures that would be imposed to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country.
One instance was when Putin announced a tax on bank deposits of more than 1 million rubles and when he extended self-isolation measures until May. People in Russia stockpiled money for the same reason those in other countries panic bought food and other scarce items amid fears of a lockdown, according to one analyst.
"People were afraid that banks will be unavailable during the quarantine," Denis Poryvay, an analyst at Raiffeisenbank in Moscow, told the website. "They withdrew money for the same reason as people hoarded food."
The hoarding of cash came despite Russian officials urging people and businesses to use digital payments rather than cash in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Last month, consumer safety watchdog Rospotrebnadzor urged Russians to switch to cashless payments, citing advice from the World Health Organization that said the virus can linger on banknotes for several days, according to Reuters.
But until late March, Russian officials had claimed there was "no epidemic" in the country, the BBC reported, and reported far fewer cases than many European nations.
But as infections started to rise sharply, Putin extended a paid non-working period for Russians until April 30.
A lockdown was declared in Moscow, the epicenter of the country's outbreak, on March 30, banning residents from venturing outside their home unless it was to go to an essential job, to buy food or medicine, receive urgent treatment or walk their dogs. Several other cities and regions have since imposed lockdown measures.
In a televised Orthodox Easter address to Russians on Sunday, Putin continued to maintain the outbreak is completely under control in Russia despite recording more than 6,000 new cases in the past 24 hours—a new one-day record for the nation, according to The Moscow Times.
"All levels of authorities are working rhythmically, in an organized way and responsibly. The situation is under full control," Putin said, according to Russian news agency TASS.
"We are carefully analyzing other countries' experience, we are actively cooperating with our foreign friends and colleagues and understand what is going on, we see risks and we know what needs to be done in any development of the situation and we do what is necessary,"
Russia has more than 42,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and 361 deaths, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19
- CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
- A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
- Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html)
- Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
- Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.
World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
- Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
- Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
- Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
- Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.
- Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
- Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
- If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
- Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
- Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.
Mask and glove usage
- Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
- Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
- Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
- Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
- Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
- Do not reuse single-use masks.
- Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
- The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.