Staunton, December 30 – There is near universal recognition that the pandemic and its consequences have made almost everything for ordinary Russians more difficult, Kommersant political editor Dmitry Kamyshev says; but there is as yet little recognition that it has made life far easier for the powers that be (kommersant.ru/doc/4637012).
On the one hand, he argues, the pandemic has given the authorities virtually unlimited ability to introduce restrictions because they can always blame the pandemic for them. And on the other, if problems do arise in the execution of what the regime wants to do, it can also hold the pandemic responsible. And regularly it does, without facing many challenges.
Moscow today registered 26,513 new cases of infection and 599 new deaths; officials also said that there are right now more than a million people who have the coronavirus infection and pneumonia; and, in one piece of good news, they added that the number of people recovering from the virus for the first time this month exceeds the number being infected (t.me/COVID2019_official/2285, regnum.ru/news/3154654.html and echo.msk.ru/news/2766324-echo.html).
On the vaccine front, Moscow has stepped up pressure on Russians to be vaccinated, warning them against drinking after they get it, and suggesting that their chances for survival if they are hospitalized with the virus are only about 50-50 (echo.msk.ru/blog/partofair/2766256-echo/, ura.news/news/1052465574 and republic.ru/posts/99011).
Moscow officials said they have already produced about two million doses of the vaccine and reported that they have received the first batch of Sputnik-5 medicine from South Korea (regnum.ru/news/3155100.html and asiarussia.ru/news/26316/).
Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin’s decision to allow more categories of people to get the vaccine has sparked criticism and debate with many concerned that instead of ensuring that those who need the medication most get it, the powers that be are simply looking to boost the total number (regnum.ru/news/3155393.html).
After imposing draconian restrictions on restaurants and bars and reporting a radical increase in the number of coronavirus infections and deaths, St. Petersburg Governor Aleksandr Beglov tried to regain some support by announcing that he was easing the restrictions for the holidays (regnum.ru/news/3154770.html, regnum.ru/news/3154764.html, regnum.ru/news/3155256.html and regnum.ru/news/3154388.html).
And Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said that the government would spend approximately 100 billion rubles (1.5 billion US dollars) on its vaccination effort through next year (regnum.ru/news/3154731.html).
On the economic front, officials reported that the departure of immigrants because of the pandemic had cost the Russian construction industry some 1.5 million employees (nazaccent.ru/content/34822-marat-husnullin-iz-rossii-iz-za-pandemii.html). And reflecting Russia’s own food problems, Moscow has asked Beijing to lift restrictions on sale of fish to Russia (regnum.ru/news/3154442.html).
Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related developments in Russia today,
· Fear of contracting the coronavirus has reduced the readiness of Russians to take part in protests, experts say (kommersant.ru/doc/4636991).
· More reports are coming which show that those who die in hospitals may be classified as having died from the coronavirus or from something else depending on what morgue workers feel like rather than as a result of a medical diagnosis (zona.media/article/2020/12/22/vtoraya-volna).
· A leading Russian epidemiologist says that as bad as the coronavirus pandemic has been, even more horrific diseases with an even greater reach are entirely possible (rosbalt.ru/moscow/2020/12/30/1880519.html).