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Window on Eurasia — New Series: Kremlin Says New Pandemic Upsurge Worrisome – and with Good Reason


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Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 8 – Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov says that the new figures coming in on the coronavirus pandemic in Russia are “the occasion for serious concern” and calls on all Russians to follow the restrictions in order to prevent things from getting worse (lenta.ru/news/2020/10/08/peskov_bespokoystvo/).

            Peskov certainly has compelling reasons to express such concern:

·         New infections in Moscow have risen 500 percent over the last month and hospitals are overflowing (meduza.io/feature/2020/10/08/za-mesyats-zabolevaemost-kovidom-v-moskve-vyrosla-v-pyat-raz-my-uznali-chto-proishodit-v-koronavirusnyh-statsionarahand regnum.ru/news/3085299.html).

·         In a quarter of the country’s regions, the rate of infection is now going up (regnum.ru/news/3084689.html).

·         Russia’s leading virologists have concluded that Russia will not achieve herd immunity anytime soon  and polls show that three out of four Russians don’t want to take any vaccine (krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/80699).

·         Russians increasingly are violating rules about wearing masks and maintaining social distance, forcing officials to warn them that if they don’t change their ways, the government will have to introduce draconian measures (regnum.ru/news/3084712.html).

·         And Rosstat says it is likely going  to have to correct numbers on deaths from the coronavirus yet again, an indication that even the burgeoning figures are likely far too low (regnum.ru/news/3084665.html).

The Russian government’s monitoring center reported that there were 11,493 cases registered in Russia today, bringing the total to 1,260,112 and 191 new deaths, raising that toll to 22,056. The first was an increase on yesterday, the second a slight decline (versia.ru/v-rossii-za-sutki-zaregistrirovano-11-493-novyx-sluchaya-zarazheniya-koronavirusom-i-191-letalnyj-isxod).

More senior officials and politicians continued to report they had been infected, and the Russian space program said that among its employees, 47 had already died from the coronavirus (regnum.ru/news/3084618.html).       

The pandemic continued to ebb and flow across Russia with closings again outnumbering reopenings (regnum.ru/news/society/3082765.html). In Moscow at least, officials are cracking down on businesses that ignore the rules governing operations during the pandemic (regnum.ru/news/3085340.html and regnum.ru/news/3084851.html).

Consumer affairs chief Anna Popova says there has not been an upsurge in the number of coronavirus cases in schools (regnum.ru/news/3084793.html). Officials say only 100 schools (0.27 percent) have been completely shut down, but many more have gone to partial distance learning (tass.ru/obschestvo/9662599). But officials are having to calm concerns that a broader shutdown is coming (regnum.ru/news/3084916.html).

Today, the health ministry issued a general recommendation that all Russians say at home in the weekend ahead in order to avoid being infected or spreading the coronavirus (regnum.ru/news/3085228.html).

Medical experts have identified some serious side effects in one of the over-the-counter anti-coronavirus medications released last week (iz.ru/1070183/mariia-nediuk-anna-urmantceva/tantcy-v-temnote-u-favipiravira-nashli-novye-pobochnye-effekty). A new study has been  released about those who helped develop the Russian vaccine (rusmonitor.com/v-novom-rassledovanii-otkrytye-media-rasskazyvayut-o-lyudyah-kotorye-pomogli-putinu-vyigrat-gonku-vakczin.html).

On the economic front, almost all the numbers are pointing in the wrong direction. Economists expect the current spike in infections to hit small and mid-sized businesses hard and do not expect the government to provide them with more assistance (regnum.ru/news/3084997.html and newizv.ru/article/general/08-10-2020/pomoschi-ne-bylo-i-ne-budet-kak-malyy-biznes-perezhivaet-vtoruyu-volnu-krizisa).

One segment of the economy that has done well is home construction materials. Because people have time to work on construction projects, purchases of such items have gone up 400 percent so far this year (ng.ru/economics/2020-10-08/4_7985_economics.html). Another segment that has done well but may be hitting a ceiling are Internet-ordered meals. Russians love them but increasingly fear the government may gain access to their financial data as a result (vedomosti.ru/economics/articles/2020/10/08/842628-rossiyane-dostavku).

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

·         Patriarch Kirill ended his self-isolation after being exposed to the virus. He said that the pandemic may be a last chance for people to turn to spirituality (credo.press/233360/ and ura.news/news/1052453329). Also today, a report appeared showing that the Moscow Patriarchate’s finances are in terrible shape because of the pandemic (ahilla.ru/bolshie-traty-naskolko-prozrachna-ekonomika-rpts/).

·         Researchers say that the numerically small peoples of the Russian North may suffer disproportionally from the pandemic for genetic reasons and because of problems of access to health care (gumilev-center.ru/covid-19-mozhet-okazatsya-opasnee-dlya-narodov-arktiki/).

·         And one Moscow commentator says Russians have suffered less from panic about the coronavirus than most other people because they are “so accustomed to living with crises” (svpressa.ru/society/article/278052/).

Window on Eurasia — New Series