George Russell in Hong Kong

Russia will allow the expansion of international flights from next month, as Vladimir Putin, the country’s president, insisted the pandemic was “receding”.

Aeroflot plans to resume three-times-a-week connections with Singapore and twice-weekly flights to and from Athens from February 8.

Russia will also resume international flights from eight more cities on the same day.

Airlines will be permitted to fly internationally from Astrakhan, Yekaterinburg, Irkutsk, Makhachkala, Mineralnye Vody, Nizhny Novgorod, Perm and Khabarovsk.

The moves come as Mr Putin told a cabinet meeting on Thursday that the coronavirus threat is slowly ebbing, with the r number at a record low. “The pandemic is gradually receding,” he said.

Russians queue for vaccinations in Moscow’s GUM department store

The president said the number of cases is going down in Russia, while the number of recoveries “has been steadily above the infection numbers lately”.

Since March 2020, when Russia suspended international flights, airlines have flown only from airports in Moscow and St Petersburg.

Airlines have gradually resumed routes since July 2020. Flights to Finland resumed on Thursday, joining existing routes to and from the UK, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, South Korea, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Switzerland, Serbia, Japan, Maldives and Cuba.

Russia’s main carrier, Aeroflot Group, carried 30.2m passengers in 2020, fewer than half the 60.7m flown the previous year.