President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
I wholeheartedly congratulate those in this room and all staff members of Rospotrebnadzor who work in the regions of our vast country on the 100th anniversary of the State Sanitary and Epidemiological Service.
The service comprises 85 territorial divisions, 84 hygiene and epidemiology centres, 21 research institutes, 11 relevant organisations, and 18 anti-plague facilities. They employ over 67,000 people altogether.
The importance of Rospotrebnadzor to our citizens, society and the state is enormous and cannot be overstated. You have responsibilities in various spheres, all of which are focused on protecting public health and ensuring people’s welfare and safety.
We became fully aware of this – when I said “we” I meant the country as a whole – during the coronavirus pandemic and especially during the most dangerous and difficult initial period, when not only our country but the world as a whole knew very little about the virus and its specific features.
It can be said without exaggeration that the epidemic, which began unexpectedly and was truly horrible, came as a challenge to the whole of humanity, and it was your service that was the first to rally against it in Russia. You organised the necessary measures competently and quickly.
Let me note that prevention is the core principle and the very essence of what you do. Accordingly, your efforts to anticipate the way the disease evolved prevented it from spreading quickly, allowing us to buy time. This has been said many times, and I think that everyone knows this already. The entire healthcare system had the time it needed to prepare and to create conditions for effectively treating patients, while enabling manufacturers to launch production of the necessary medicines, equipment and PPE.
For decades, our country has been accumulating best practices for ensuring epidemiological security. It is essential that we cherish the traditions established by generations of public health officers.
In this connection, let me remind you that there was a debate during the 1990s reforms, and you know this better than anyone else, on whether we needed to have a sanitary and epidemiological service vested with extensive controlling authority and reporting to the federal centre. It is thanks to the firm position of the specialists and your senior officials that this system stayed in place. We now understand how important it was to keep the service running, as we have seen many times. Already in the 1990s, this helped the country overcome surges in cases of tuberculosis, viral hepatitis, diphtheria and measles.
Let me reiterate that our success in fighting the coronavirus pandemic is largely attributable to the integrity of the service’s top-down management structure, and its ability to take swift and effective action in extreme circumstances.
The staff of Rospotrebnadzor had to work hard, courageously and with the utmost dedication. In all the measures they took, they proceeded from a thorough analysis of the epidemiological situation in the region, devising clear procedural algorithms on a case-by-case basis.
The pandemic served as a driver for molecular and genetics studies, including the development of our own Covid testing kits. We reduced the time it takes to obtain test results by three times. I know that some regions have yet to overcome certain challenges in this regard, but the situation has changed dramatically compared to what it was like at the beginning of the pandemic. By the end of the year, Rospotrebnadzor will have 153 specialised centres devoted to these tasks.
Building a sanitary shield to protect the Russian people from potential biological threats is among our priorities as well.
This ambitious project will make diagnostics of infectious diseases fast and affordable and will make it possible to identify any unknown infection literally within 24 hours and, according to specialists and your executives, to develop a test system to detect it within four days.
I am confident that you will definitely be able to meet these challenges, which are directly related to the quality of life of our people.
Humanity went through a long and difficult period before it learned how to control dangerous bacteria and deadly viruses. Above all, it was a path of gaining knowledge and skills, such as the complex process of creating vaccines and establishing seemingly simple rules of hygiene.
Combatting infections and epidemics began in Russia under Ivan the Terrible when the Pharmaceutical Prikaz, the first ever institution in charge of public health, was instituted. Peter the First transformed it into the Medical Chancery and Catherine the Great, into the Medical Collegium.
We pay tribute to many generations of talented and dedicated doctors and researchers. They often risked their lives in the truest sense of the word to discover treatments for terrible diseases that claimed thousands of lives.
Among these devoted scholars is Daniil Samoylovich, the founder of Russian epidemiology, who fearlessly and selflessly researched modes of transmission of the plague, made numerous discoveries and became known worldwide.
Drawing on the experiences of predecessors is one of the main traditions of Rospotrebnadzor, which was created on September 15, 1922. A network of sanitary and epidemiological institutions was created at that difficult time based on the foundation that was laid back in the period of the Russian Empire. Importantly, it covered the entire country.
I would like to note in particular the immense contribution your colleagues made during the Great Patriotic War, when both the battle fronts and the home front were reliably protected from outbreaks of dangerous infections.
Your work has always been based on the writings and discoveries of outstanding Russian scientists. The service’s development went along with the creation of research institutes and scientific schools, which gained traction and influence. Owing to their continuity, Russia is leading today in epidemiology, virology, microbiology and other sanitary protection areas.
Russian scientific thought and the extensive experience of its practical application helped to beat many dangerous diseases, while the protection of people’s wellbeing has come to be considered in an increasingly comprehensive manner with account taken of various aspects of everyday life – right inside society, as they say – including such crucial ones as the quality of drinking water and food products, and generally, in the broad sense of the word, protection of consumer rights.
You honourably and responsibly perform the tasks that have been assigned to you. Yes, your work often remains in the shadows, as the saying goes, and is not noticed until trouble comes. But you are working proactively with an eye to prevention, and people in this country are often unaware of the huge efforts your service is making to protect their health.
This work undoubtedly deserves respect and the greatest recognition. I am referring, without any exaggeration, to the millions of people, whom your work has helped to avoid serious diseases and their no less serious consequences.
I want to sincerely thank all Rospotrebnadzor employees and veterans for the professionalism and reliability that you display in the course of your work, for your well-organised and effective efforts, and for your crucial contribution to the nation’s health and therefore to this country’s development.
Allow me to wish you success and all the best.
And, of course, I would be glad to present state awards.
Vladimir Putin: You may have noticed that at the beginning of the ceremony today I addressed you as friends. Frankly, during the ride in the elevator I looked at the text and saw that it says “colleagues.” But I cannot be described as your colleague. I am not a doctor, and so it would be wrong to pretend to be part of your profession.
Do you know what I was thinking during the ceremony? You are fighting an invisible enemy, a real and dangerous adversary – infections, pathogenic bacteria and the like. In this sense, you are fighting an invisible battle.
Yes, this is true. Just like it was during my time in the foreign intelligence service of the Soviet Union, you are seldom spoken about, seen or heard, but you are doing an extremely important job in the interests of our people and Russia. I saw more proof of this today, when nearly all those who received state decorations said, “In the service of Russia.” It was as if I was back in my former office.
Therefore, this is what I would like to say in conclusion. Colleagues, thank you very much, and congratulations on the centenary of your service. I wish you all the best.