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Window on Eurasia — New Series: Explosive Growth in COVID Forcing Russia to Use Medical Students, Military Hospitals


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Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 14 – Just how hard pressed Russia’s healthcare system is in the face of the new upsurge in the pandemic is reflected by the fact that officials are now using medical students to treat patients and opening military hospitals to civilians infected with the coronavirus (regnum.ru/news/3089327.html  and regnum.ru/news/3089144.html).

            At the same time, the health ministry says that it “doubts” the authorities will have to draft doctors working in private  clinics to help out, although the fact that it put out that statement suggests that many are worried that such an arrangement may soon be required (regnum.ru/news/3089335.html).

            Officials generally say the situation is stable although they continue to criticize Russians for failing to follow government guidelines on masks and social distancing (regnum.ru/news/3089771.html), but epidemiologists say the situation is worsening across the board (ng.ru/moscow/2020-10-13/16_7988_msk13102020.html).

            The Duma has called on the government to give a report on pandemic (znak.com/2020-10-14/situaciya_blizka_k_kriticheskoy_v_gosdume_zatrebovali_otchet_kabmina_o_borbe_s_covid_19), and rumors are swirling that Putin will again address the nation about the situation (regnum.ru/news/3089811.html).

            The numbers are grim. Today, officials reported registering 14,231 new cases of infection and 239 new deaths, bringing those totals respectively to 1,340,409 and 23,205 (echo.msk.ru/blog/covid2019_official/2725158-echo/). In Moscow, the number of infections had jumped by almost a third in the last week (echo.msk.ru/blog/covid2019_official/2725216-echo/).

            One analyst, Dmitry Nekrasov, suggested the real numbers are much worse not only because officials falsify the figures but because the system of medical accounting in Russia is fundamentally flawed (newizv.ru/article/general/14-10-2020/dmitriy-nekrasov-statistika-zabolevaniy-po-koronavirusu-krayne-netochnaya).

            Beyond the ring road, the pandemic continues to ebb and flow with new closings and some re-openings following. Experts in the regions say that most officials there are simply copying whatever the city government of Moscow does (regnum.ru/news/society/3088420.html and politsovet.ru/68181-s-nasmorkom-na-vyhod.html).

            Schools are an especially febrile measure of where the virus is: Next week, pupils in the first five classes will return to in-person instruction while those in more senior grades will continue distance learning (regnum.ru/news/society/3072297.html and echo.msk.ru/blog/ssobyanin/2725066-echo/). City council deputies have asked prosecutors to look into the legality of what Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin has done about the coronavirus (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5F86DD95C8918).

            Russia continues to test vaccines and plan for production at the rate of 15 million doses a month next year, but because fewer than one in four Russians now says he or she will be vaccinated, many worry the vaccine won’t defeat the pandemic there (profile.ru/society/pomozhet-li-novaya-vakcina-ostanovit-pandemiyu-417997/and regnum.ru/news/3089736.html).

            On the economic front, one analyst points out that Russia is the only country on earth that has increased taxes during the coronavirus pandemic. The others have cut taxes to compensate for economic problems (rusmonitor.com/anatolij-nesmiyan-nasha-bezgolovaya-vlast-edinstvennaya-v-mire-kotoraya-rezko-uvelichivaet-nalogi-v-period-krizisa.html).

            The pandemic has pushed down the number of migrants leaving many low-wage jobs unfulfilled, and employers are avoiding taking on anyone in a high risk group (meduza.io/episodes/2020/10/14/iz-za-pandemii-v-rossii-stalo-menshe-migrantov-v-strane-defitsit-rabochih-ruk-kto-budet-rabotat-vmesto-nih and newsru.com/blog/14oct2020/pens_dis.html).

            Auctioning of businesses has increased by a third since the start of the pandemic, but domestic airlines are carrying as many passengers as they did before the coronavirus hit (newizv.ru/news/economy/14-10-2020/delo-s-molotka-chislo-ob-yavleniy-o-prodazhe-biznesa-v-rossii-vyroslo-na-tretand newizv.ru/news/economy/14-10-2020/a-nam-vse-ravno-vnutri-rossii-letat-aviapassazhiry-stali-chasche-chem-do-epidemii).

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

·         The Russian occupation authorities in Ukraine’s Crimea and Sevastopol are doing an especially bad job treating those infected with the coronavirus (nv.ua/opinion/koronavirus-krym-skolko-chelovek-umirayut-ot-covid-19-poslednie-novosti-50117651.html).

·         Now that Dmitry Medvedev is in charge of fighting the pandemic, Russians are joking that his slogan has become “there is no vaccine, but you hold on” (politobzor.net/223221-vakciny-net-no-vy-derzhites-kreml-naznachil-togo-kto-pobedit-kovid-v-rf.html).

·         All major religious organizations are reimposing all or most of the restrictions they did during the spring wave of the pandemic (sova-center.ru/religion/news/authorities/karantin/2020/10/d43048/).

Window on Eurasia — New Series