Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesperson, sent to hospital after testing positive for COVID-19

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesperson said Tuesday he has been hospitalized with the coronavirus, the second major figure in the Kremlin to test positive for the virus in the past two weeks.

Peskov, 52, is 5th Kremlin official affected by the virus recently

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his press secretary Dmitry Peskov, right, are shown in Moscow in a 2017 photo. Officials said the pair haven't been in close proximity in weeks, but several Kremlin politicians have now tested positive for coronavirus. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/The Associated Press)

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesperson said Tuesday he has tested positive for the coronavirus and is in hospital.

Dmitry Peskov told the Interfax news agency, "Yes, I've gotten sick. I'm being treated."

The announcement came just a day after Putin said Russia was successful in slowing down infections and announced easing some of the nationwide lockdown restrictions.

Peskov's wife, Olympic ice dancing champion Tatyana Navka, also tested positive for the virus. She told reporters that Peskov's condition was "satisfactory" and that the couple decided to enter the hospital so as not to expose the rest of their family.

"He brought it [the virus] from work," Navka was quoted as saying by the Daily Storm online outlet.

Peskov, 52, has been Putin's spokesman since 2008 but began working him with in the early 2000s.

The Tass news agency quoted Peskov saying he last saw Putin in person "more than a month ago."

Reporters from the Kremlin media pool said on Twitter that Peskov was last seen in public on April 30 "at a meeting with Vladimir Putin." It wasn't clear whether that meant the two were in the same room, as Putin has been conducting all his meetings via teleconference in recent weeks.

Peskov is seen in a 2015 photo with his partner, former Olympic ice dance champion and TV presenter Tatiana Navka. Both have tested positive for the coronavirus. (Pavel Golovkin/The Associated Press)

Since early in the outbreak, the Russian president minimized meetings and switched to holding daily video calls with cabinet members and aides.

Peskov is not the only top government official to come down with the coronavirus. Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin revealed April 30 that he had tested positive for the virus. The next day, Construction and Housing Minister Vladimir Yakushev, was hospitalized with it, and Culture Minister Olga Lyubimova said last week she was self-isolating after getting infected.

Mishustin's spokesperson said Monday that the prime minister "continues to undergo treatment in one of the state-run medical facilities" and his health was improving, but gave no details about the severity of his condition.

Russia has reported more than 232,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 2,100 virus-related deaths as of Tuesday. Hours before Putin made a televised speech Monday about ending the partial economic lockdown, health officials reported a daily record of over 11,600 new cases.

An investigator is seen through a broken window at the scene of a fire at St. George Hospital in St. Petersburg, Russia on Tuesday. The fire has killed five coronavirus patients. (Dmitry Lovetsky/The Associated Press)

Because of the outbreak, the 67-year-old Putin had to postpone a nationwide vote last month on changes to the constitution that would pave the way for him to stay in office until 2036, if he desires.

"Let's remember this," opposition politician Alexei Navalny tweeted after Putin's speech. "Putin lifted nationwide restrictions aimed at curbing the epidemic on the day when a record has been set in new infections. W for 'wisdom.'"

Deadly fire in St. Petersburg

On Tuesday, health officials said they were investigating the safety of ventilators after the fires in intensive care units, apparently because the breathing machines malfunctioned. killed a total of six people in the past four days.

A fire Tuesday at St. George Hospital in St. Petersburg killed five patients on ventilators, prompting a police investigation. Another blaze Saturday at the Spasokukotsky Hospital in Moscow killed one patient. Both hospitals had been repurposed for treating coronavirus patients, and in both cases, faulty Russian-made ventilators were reported to have started the fires.

A Russian Emergency Situation worker disinfects a woman near the scene of the fire at St. George Hospital in St. Petersburg. (Dmitry Lovetsky/The Associated Press)

The government says hospitals have enough ventilators to deal with the outbreak, and Putin said Monday that only "a small fraction" of Russia's ventilator stockpile is being used.

However, doctors in hospitals outside big cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg have been complaining about not enough ventilators or their poor quality, as well as about sweeping shortages of protective equipment.

Peskov regularly dismissed those complaints at his daily briefings and maintained that Russian hospitals are well-stocked with everything they need, attributing reports of shortages to isolated incidents that were quickly addressed by the government.

With files from Reuters

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