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Window on Eurasia — New Series: Pandemic Spike and New Restrictions Spark Fears, Resistance and Skepticism among Russians


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Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 1 – The spike in new coronavirus cases in Russia and especially in Moscow is generating in the population, but the reimposition of restrictions is facing resistance and skepticism among many who doubt officials know what they are doing (znak.com/2020-10-01/gotovy_li_rossiyane_ko_vtoroy_volne_koronavirusa_i_novoy_samoizolyacii_opros_znak_com).

            Daily reports about new cases and deaths and about new restrictions is spreading in the population, with many people deciding to avoid public places and driving down consumer spending in shopping centers and restaurants (regnum.ru/news/3079317.html). But fears are rapidly leading to new resistance to official moves and skepticism about them (forbes.ru/obshchestvo/410193-vtoraya-volna-razdrazheniya-kak-strah-pered-novym-lokdaunom-obostril-nedoverie).

            That resistance means that what begins as recommendations for behavior soon become orders as in the case of Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin’s request and then order that companies arrange for 30 percent of their workers to work from home (regnum.ru/news/3079426.html and sobyanin.ru/v-zone-riska-i-o-perehode-na-udalyonnuyu-rabotu).

            Officials like Sobyanin are expressing increasing anger at the population for failing to follow the recommendations and warning that new restrictions likely to follow their behavior are the fault of the population rather than the government (regnum.ru/news/3079342.html). That has not stopped Russians from posting their objections to government actions (regnum.ru/news/3079405.html).

            Ordinary Russians and trade unions are objecting to policies about masks, arguing that the government doesn’t appear to know what it is doing and that individuals must make up their own minds rather than be forced to comply by siloviki (regnum.ru/news/3079316.html and regnum.ru/news/3079234.html).

            And there is growing evidence that officials don’t know what to do given that they don’t want the economy to suffer but also don’t want to allow the pandemic to continue to claims victims (regnum.ru/news/3078191.html and regnum.ru/news/3079131.html).

            The numbers today continued to be dire. The authorities registered 8945 new cases of infection and 169 more deaths, bringing the totals of these categories respectively to 1,185,231 and 20,891 t.me/COVID2019_official/1620). Moscow has been particularly hard it, and Sobyanin warns there may soon be 3,000 new infections there each day (regnum.ru/news/3079315.html).

            Medical officials around the country warn that there are ever fewer free beds in hospitals for coronavirus victims (capost.media/news/obshchestvo/v-rossii-koek-dlya-bolnykh-covid-19-ostaetsya-vse-menshe/).

            The pandemic continues to ebb and flow across Russia, with more of the latter than the former and so more closings than re-openings. Schools have been particularly hard hit, and one region – Kaliningrad – has now gone back to the restrictions that were in place there last spring (regnum.ru/news/society/3077734.htmland gov39.ru/press/217289/).

            Some in the regions are worried that the Moscow school holiday Sobyanin extended will lead residents of the capital to travel and thus spread the infection from the capital to their areas (regnum.ru/news/3079445.html and regnum.ru/news/3079057.html).

            Suggestions that Russians aren’t turning to their doctors soon enough when they have signs of the infection have been dismissed by medical experts who say that Russians often turn to the doctors only to discover that their primary care physicians don’t know what to do. The problem, the experts say, lies with the medical system, not ordinary Russians (regnum.ru/news/3079101.html).

            On the economic front as well, there was little good news. Officials said many borders will remain closed until at least the spring of 2021 (regnum.ru/news/3079231.html). Declining consumer demand may kill off more businesses and drive up unemployment, analysts say (regnum.ru/news/3078706.html).

And oil prices are falling as well, reducing that source of government revenue (finanz.ru/novosti/birzhevyye-tovary/neft-nakrylo-vtoroy-volnoy-brent-rukhnula-nizhe-$40-1029641202).

There were two especially gloomy predictions about Russia’s future and the pandemic released today. Hospital official Aleksey Zhivov says that overcoming the pandemic will take years as fewer than one percent of the population is immune and vaccinations have only begun (echo.msk.ru/news/2718033-echo.html).

And radical sociologist Boris Kagarlitsky says that the coronavirus pandemic may continue in Russia “indefinitely because there is no limit to the desire of the Russian powers that be to ban things” and the coronavirus provides the perfect justification for them to do just that  (regnum.ru/news/3078647.html).

Window on Eurasia — New Series