One ambulance driver said he had been waiting 15 hours outside the hospital to drop off a patient suspected of having the virus.

“The situation in both Moscow and St Petersburg, but mostly in Moscow, is quite tense because the number of sick people is growing,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in an interview on state television, news agencies reported.

“There is a huge influx of patients. We are seeing hospitals in Moscow working extremely intensely, in heroic, emergency mode.”

Russia’s coronavirus crisis response centre said hospitals were taking all possible measures to ensure rapid admissions and that cases of ambulances needing to wait hours to drop off patients was not a systemic issue.