Staunton, October 12 – Russian elites are increasingly divided on how to respond to the upsurge in coronavirus infections and deaths not only because of their personal preferences for promoting economic growth as against defending the population against disease but also because they are uncertain as to how the population will respond (newsru.com/blog/12oct2020/covid.html
Increasingly, officials see the population unwilling to follow the recommendations of the authorities to wear masks and maintain social distance. Some say the government must impose harsh controls while others argue that in the current environment those would lead only to more violations and even protests.
What is striking is that while the Kremlin continues to maintain that the harshest measures aren’t necessary, many in other parts of the government in Moscow and in the regions are prepared to shut things down and return to a lockdown, a division far greater than on almost any other issue in Russia in recent times (rosbalt.ru/posts/2020/10/12/1867713.html, regnum.ru/news/3087501.html and regnum.ru/news/3087017.html).
According to the Russian government, there were 13,592 new cases of infection and 125 additional deaths from the coronavirus, bringing the respective totals to 1,312,310 and 22,722. The figures for Moscow were 4501 new infections and 30 new deaths, bringing the latter total there to 5590 (t.me/COVID2019_official/1725and t.me/COVID2019_official/1718).
According to independent economist Andrey Illarionov, however, excess deaths for the country as a whole from the pandemic have been far higher than the government admits and currently exceed 70,000, although it is difficult if not impossible to segregate out pandemic deaths from all mortality during the period (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5F844570BBC19).
Because of better testing, Moscow is registering more deaths relative to population than other places;but because of better healthcare than in the rest of Russia, it is recording fewer deaths, one commentator argues, an argument that feeds into the debate about testing and its impact on decisions (rusmonitor.com/el-myurid-novosti-kovidnogo-terrora.html
Outside of Moscow, the pandemic continues to ebb and flow, with more institutions closing or imposing restrictions than re-opening and lifting them (regnum.ru/news/society/3082765.html, regnum.ru/news/society/3072297.htmland newizv.ru/news/society/12-10-2020/kovid-v-shkole-chto-delat-i-chego-boyatsya-uchenikam-roditelyam-vlastyam).
As people wait for the vaccine, experts say that Russians may have to get shots of it each year just as for the flu (ura.news/news/1052453711). The authorities also report that the UAE is going to do the third stage of testing of the Russian vaccine (sovsekretno.ru/news/minzdrav-oae-odobril-provedenie-tretego-etapa-issledovaniy-rossiyskoy-vaktsiny/).
Given the recent upsurge, Russian experts are debating how much higher the figures will go and how long the pandemic will last. Some say the country will soon have 17,000 to 18,000 cases of infection every day (ura.news/news/1052453681). Others predict a decline from current highs but argue that the pandemic will last a year or more (mk.ru/science/2020/10/09/glavnyy-pulmonolog-minzdrava-opisal-novyy-opyt-lecheniya-koronavirusa.html).
Economists are increasingly pessimistic about the economy with many now suggesting Russia’s GDP will decline by more than five percent this year (tass.ru/ekonomika/9688753). More immediately, industry spokesman say that the number of stores in Russia have fallen by 62 percent since March (newsru.com/finance/12oct2020/ruretail.html).
Likewise, the pandemic is hitting smaller banks harder than larger ones, increasing inequality in that sector (rbc.ru/finances/12/10/2020/5f8068289a79472bebf0a990?from=column_3). Given inflation, sanctions and problems with the banks, nearly half of all Russians say they plan to pull their money out of banks (capost.media/news/obshchestvo/pochti-polovina-rossiyan-sobiraetsya-zabrat-dengi-iz-bankov/).
Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related developments in Russia today,
· Officials are looking into a case that has scandalized the country in which Kemerovo officials gave family members a closed casket supposedly containing their relative who then turned out to be very much alive (regnum.ru/news/3087610.html).
· Experts say that the government sector of the economy has been much more stable than the private sector (regnum.ru/news/3087576.html).
· Russia is using dogs to sniff out coronavirus carriers (themoscowtimes.com/2020/10/12/russia-recruits-rare-dogs-to-sniff-out-coronavirus-as-second-wave-tightens-grip-a71724).
· Moscow has issued new 25-ruble coins honoring ambulance workers (znak.com/2020-10-12/bank_rossii_vypustil_25_rublevye_monety_s_izobrazheniem_vrachey_skoroy_pomochi).
· The Russian government is working on plans to require academic specialists to devote more attention to practical tasks rather than fundamental research (russian.eurasianet.org/россия-академические-свободы-или-полезные-знания).
Window on Eurasia — New Series