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Window on Eurasia — New Series: As Infections Surge, Moscow Re-Introduces Restrictions Sparking Fears There and Elsewhere that More are Ahead


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Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 6 – Moscow today set new records for coronavirus infections – 4082 – and hospitalizations – 1049 – prompting Mayor Sergey Sobyanin to reimpose limited controls but sparking fears that more are in the pipeline and will be imposed there and elsewhere in the coming days.

The mayor and his staff blamed Muscovites for not following the requests of officials by wearing masks and maintaining social distance. Because Russians haven’t, they said, controls are required (sobyanin.ru/koronavirus-o-resheniyah-06-10-2020, tass.ru/obschestvo/9645831,  regnum.ru/news/3082500.htmland  regnum.ru/news/3082519.html).

            Russia also set a one-day record for new infections across the country, with 11,615 registered bringing the official count to 1,237,504. There were also 188 new deaths, upping that toll to 21,663 (t.me/COVID2019_official/1660).

            Vladimir Putin for his part said a third vaccine would soon be approved and made available to the population (regnum.ru/news/3083144.html), although its producers have upped the number of people it is to be tested on from 5,000 to 30,000, a reflection of public distrust in  the speeded-up approval process Moscow has insisted upon (interfax.ru/russia/730102).

            In other comments, the Kremlin leader said dozens of people in the Kremlin had been vaccinated as well as many members of his family and most of the Russian military’s high command (regnum.ru/news/3083128.html, regnum.ru/news/3083019.html and regnum.ru/news/3083014.html).

            As always, the situation in Moscow got the most attention, but the pandemic continued to ebb and flow across the country, hitting educational institutions and medical facilities especially hard (regnum.ru/news/society/3072297.html). Regional officials asked for more assistance from Moscow (regnum.ru/news/3082928.html).

            Russians are again increasingly fearful about the future, VTsIOM says (newdaynews.ru/moscow/704865.html), with many expecting the restrictions in Moscow to tighten in the coming days and be extended to the country as a whole. At the same time, many Russians don’t believe what Moscow is telling them and so aren’t taking precautions (https://snob.ru/entry/198698/).   

Russian epidemiologists at the Academy of Sciences are saying that the number of victims this fall will be two to three times greater than last spring but not the 10 times some alarmists have been talking about (regnum.ru/news/3082735.html). If true, deaths from the pandemic in Russia could total more than 60,000 by the end of the year.

Some Russians are suggesting that to defend against that prospect the country needs to shut down its borders land, sea and air with foreign countries (regnum.ru/news/3082471.html and ia-centr.ru/publications/mozhet-li-rossiya-vnov-zakryt-granitsy-iz-za-covid-19-/), calls that are only adding to uncertainty and alarm.

On the economic front, banks expect to take new losses during the second wave of the pandemic (vedomosti.ru/economics/articles/2020/10/06/842332-banki-udar), business activity is again declining (krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/80636), and unemployment is projected to continue to rise (regnum.ru/news/3082481.html).

Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related developments in Russia today,

·         The government has allocated 11.2 billion rubles (160 million US dollars) to pay medical personnel the bonuses Putin promised and that they have demonstrated for (regnum.ru/news/3082874.html).

·         The Kremlin finds itself caught between a population that in many cases says the government isn’t doing enough to fight the pandemic (regnum.ru/news/3082589.html) and officials and business leaders who fear even what it is now doing could sink the economy (regnum.ru/news/3082685.html).

·         And both commentators and medical experts are suggesting that Russians should blame Putin’s healthcare optimization program for rising deaths rather than viewing them as the inevitable result of the pandemic (rusmonitor.com/el-myurid-ne-virus-ubijcza-lyudej-a-te-kto-likvidiroval-sistemu-zdravoohraneniya-orientirovannuyu-na-zdorove-naczii.htmland https://www.znak.com/2020-10-06/chto_na_samom_dele_proishodit_s_sistemoy_zdravoohraneniya_peterburga_vnutrenniy_otchet).

Window on Eurasia — New Series