Staunton, November 17 – Exactly one year ago today, the first case of a coronavirus infection in a human was recorded in China. On this anniversary, Russia has plateaued, officials say, but at a very high level that is likely to continue until the population is vaccinated or radical measures are taken (regnum.ru/news/3117400.html and znak.com/2020-11-17/segodnya_koronavirusu_covid_19_ispolnilsya_god_vspominaem_pervye_shagi_novogo_soseda).
Russian experts, but not Moscow officials, are now saying that there won’t be any improvement in the current situation in Russia earlier than next month in some places and much later than that in many others (eastrussia.ru/news/sroki-spada-zabolevaemosti-koronavirusom-v-rossii-nazval-ekspert/).
Instead, as Rosbalt commentator Sergey Shelin observes today, in what is the worst month in the pandemic in Russia, the Kremlin has acted as if there is no real problem because it can’t say all countries are doing as badly as Russia and does not want Russians to focus on its failures (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2020/11/17/1873444.html).
The official figures today continued to be dire: 22,410 new infections and 442 deaths (t.me/COVID2019_official/1996). But both of those understate the seriousness of the situation, possibly by an order of magnitude or more (meduza.io/feature/2020/11/17/ofitsialno-v-bashkirii-ot-kovida-umerli-menshe-70-chelovek-statistiku-mogli-rekordno-zanizit-srazu-na-neskolko-tysyach-smertey).
That same source calls into question Moscow’s claims that Russia ranks 100th among the countries of the world in terms of coronavirus deaths. It suggests that an accurate account ng would show that Russia is close to the top or might even head the list (regnum.ru/news/3117374.html).
The situation in the two capitals is serious but less disturbing than that in many regions. Officials in Moscow have extended distance learning, while those in St. Petersburg have pointed to a growing shortage of medicines in apothecary shops (regnum.ru/news/3118059.html, snob.ru/news/v-moskve-prodlili-distancionnoe-obuchenie-dlya-starsheklassnikov/ and regnum.ru/news/3117181.html).
Outside these megalopolises the situation is so bad that many are now warning that other regions will follow Buryatia and reimpose a lockdown although all are convinced that Moscow will not issue such an order for the country as a whole out of concern about its impact on the economy (kommersant.ru/doc/4575068).
The situation in Siberia and the Russian Far East is so tragic that some are suggesting a new strain of the virus in those regions may have emerged and made it more difficult to fight (regnum.ru/news/3117700.html, newizv.ru/news/society/17-11-2020/koronavirus-v-provintsii-ubyl-vrachey-i-spetsialistov-uzhe-nevozmozhno-skryt and eastrussia.ru/material/po-zakonam-kovidnogo-vremeni/).
And one analyst is warning that the burdens on regions the pandemic has imposed mean that more than 20 of them are now at risk of being subject to direct administrative rule from Moscow (krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/81675).
On the vaccine front, the health ministry has given its approval to Vektor labs to begin distancing its coronavirus vaccine on those older than 20 (regnum.ru/news/3117411.html). Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin has urged BRICS countries to join forces to manufacture the vaccine. Kazakhstan is already doing so (themoscowtimes.com/2020/11/17/putin-urges-brics-to-mass-produce-russian-covid-19-vaccines-a72075asiarussia.ru/news/25931/).
The Kremlin leader is doing so because Russia lacks the domestic capacity to produce a sufficient number of vaccines quickly.
And on the economic front, the Russian government in September exported 54.9 tons of gold abroad to raise money for its budget, three times more than in August and five times more than a year ago. Officials say this is the largest amount Moscow has sold since records began to be kept (krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/81669).
Ever more sectors of the economy are being hit by the pandemic, including those which largely escaped problems earlier like IT (regnum.ru/news/3117600.html and regnum.ru/news/3117273.html). As a result, incomes are falling as is consumer demand – and that shows no sign of recovering anytime soon (regnum.ru/news/3117248.html).
According to new statistics, every fifth family in Russia spends more than it earns, drawing on its savings and increasingly getting by only with loans (krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/81680).
Meanwhile in other pandemic-related developments in Russia today,
· Economists are pleased that Russians have reduced what the specialists call “irrational spending” on gifts as a result of the pandemic (regnum.ru/news/3117868.html).
· The Kremlin has announced that it has no plans to introduce special subsidies for artists, many of whom have lost much or all of their incomes during the crisis (regnum.ru/news/3117585.html).
· And Russian scholars say the pandemic has enriched the Russian language with a variety of new words, but LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky wants to ban one of these, “lockdown” (regnum.ru/news/3117469.html and echo.msk.ru/news/2743542-echo.html).