‘It’s even good for your health’ Why were journalists attending Vladimir Putin’s annual press conference sprayed with silver particles?

Natalya Kolesnikova / AFP / Scanpix / LETA

Around 500 journalists were invited to attend Vladimir Putin’s 2021 marathon press conference at the Moscow Manege on Thursday, December 23. But even those with invitations couldn’t just waltz right inside. First, they had to pass through a disinfection booth installed at the entrance, which sprayed attendees with silver particles. Then, they had to don special protective masks treated with an “antibacterial solution of nanosilver.”

The Presidential Administrative Directorate spent a grand total of 117 million rubles (about $1.6 million) on organizing Putin’s press event — of which about 1.4 million rubles, or $19,000, went toward spraying journalists with silver particles, according to public procurement records. (This includes the cost of renting six disinfection booths for a period of two days and purchasing the disinfectant spray).

“When preparing the press conference, our specialists paid special attention to sanitary and epidemiological requirements,” emphasized Presidential Property Department spokeswoman Elena Krylova ahead of the event. The silver nanoparticle spray is “completely safe,” she added. “I would say it’s even good for your health.”

Naturally, sanitary measures are important — especially during a global pandemic. The trouble is, the steps described above aren’t the best way to combat the spread of COVID-19. Meduza’s medical news editor Daria Sarkisyan explains why:

“Silver is indeed used in modern medicine, but its antibacterial properties are mainly used for burns. In this case, a special bandage is usually applied to the wound. Upon contact with the cells of the human body, the silver atoms develop a positive charge, and ions are released into the wound. 

It’s not entirely clear how an external treatment of ‘silver particles’ is supposed to work. I’ll repeat, in modern medicine, silver is usually used not to fight viruses, but to fight bacteria. Moreover, I wasn’t able to find any official guidelines from doctors’ organizations and healthcare organizations, which would suggest the use of silver in this way for disinfection (or on masks).” 

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