Russian scientists have sequenced the whole genome of the new coronavirus, the Ministry of Health has announced.
In a statement on Thursday, the Ministry explained that the genome, sourced from a patient infected with the virus, will help in the development of vaccines and antiviral drugs for treatment.
The genome was sequenced by scientists from the Smorodintsev Research Institute of Influenza, a leading medical institute in St. Petersburg partnered with the World Health Organization.
Doctor of Medical Sciences Dmitry Lioznov, who serves as the acting director of the Smorodintsev Institute, stressed that because COVID-19 is "a new coronavirus for us...it is critically important to be able to determine the path of its entry and spread into our country, as well as its mutations."
Russia, which has 147 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including nine recoveries and one fatality, has joined other nations in taking a series of measures to combat the pandemic. Classifying the outbreak as one of the worst public health crises in the last 50 years, the Russian government's efforts have included shutting down borders with neighbouring countries, instituting tough screening procedures at airports and train stations, restricting public gatherings and asking business to ramp up production of virus-related medical equipment, including test kits and masks. On Thursday, the government announced that it is reviewing existing restrictions and may strengthen them in the future on the basis of scientific and medical advice.
Earlier this week, President Vladimir Putin called on Russians to treat the precautionary measures put in place with a sense of understanding, and urged the public to show solidarity, composure, responsibility and discipline to overcome the virus and its social impact.
Since originating in Wuhan, China in late 2019, COVID-19 has spread to nearly 160 countries and territories, infecting some 220,000 people and causing nearly 9,000 deaths. Some 84,000 people have enjoyed a complete recovery thus far.
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