Staunton, December 17 – The percentage of Russians who express “coronavirus skeptic” views has risen from 26.3 percent last spring to 43.4 percent now, a Higher School of Economics survey find, a trend which is slowing demand for the vaccine even where it is available (hse.ru/news/expertise/398120110.html and themoscowtimes.com/2020/12/17/vaccine-fears-slow-moscows-sputnik-v-rollout-a72385).
Intentionally or not, Vladimir Putin fed that skepticism by remarks during his press conference, when he declared that he had not yet gotten the shots because his age cohort hasn’t come up and that now is not the time to determine who was behind the spread of the pandemic (regnum.ru/news/3144228.html and regnum.ru/news/3144196.html).
Also likely increasing skepticism is another development. Over the last month, the Russian government has conducted 11 percent fewer coronavirus tests, something that both reflects and produces a fall in concern about the virus (reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-russia-testing-idUSKBN28Q0VE).
Despite this shift in attitudes, the pandemic continued to rage across Russia and to claim more victims, with the authorities registering 28,214 new cases of infection and 587 new deaths over the last 24 hours (regnum.ru/news/society/3142642.html and t.me/COVID2019_official/2198).
Putin for his part reiterated that Moscow does not plan a new lockdown to counter the pandemic but added that he is pushing for better Internet connectivity for schools so that online courses for some pupils will be possible if needed (regnum.ru/news/3144524.html and regnum.ru/news/3144288.html).
Health officials suggested that Russians will need to wear masks until at least the end of 2021, but the authorities in St. Petersburg said they were considering reducing the draconian restrictions they had imposed for the coming holiday weeks (mk.ru/social/2020/12/17/maski-nam-nosit-do-konca-2021-goda-esli-ne-dolshe.html and regnum.ru/news/3144574.html).
Problems with the treatment of the pandemic and availability of medicines have sparked a debate between Putin who says Russian healthcare has done better coping with the coronavirus than that of other countries and LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky who insists any successes are the result of holdovers from Soviet times (pharmvestnik.ru/content/news/Bolee-treti-rossiyan-stolknulis-s-otsutstviem-lekarstv-v-aptekah.html, hregnum.ru/news/3144211.html and regnum.ru/news/3144167.html).
On the economic front, officials reported that foreign direct investment had declined during the pandemic by 80 percent on an annual basis (charter97.org/ru/news/2020/12/17/404319/) and that Moscow city had lost about one in six of its construction workers because of restrictions on immigration (ng.ru/moscow/2020-12-17/2_8043_msk17122020.html).
Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related developments in Russia today,
· Russian Orthodox priests have begun to work in a Ryazan hospital to help out doctors treating coronavirus patients (regnum.ru/news/3143954.html).
· Millions of Russians have been victims of false news and criminal scams as a result of the increasing role of the Internet in their lives during the pandemic (regnum.ru/news/polit/3143513.html).
· Pandemic restrictions are dramatically and negatively affecting cultural rituals in the North Caucasus, experts say (kavkaz-uzel.eu/blogs/1927/posts/46303).