Staunton, March 19 – Russians are as divided as some other nations about the threat the coronavirus pandemic poses: Almost 100,000 have signed a petition circulated by doctors, economists and social activists calling for tougher measures against the virus, but a new poll finds that 54 percent of Russians believe that the threat it represents has been overstated.
The petition is addressed to the citizens of Russia, President Putin and the Russian government (change.org/p/гражданам-россии-президенту-и-правительству-открытое-письмо-о-экстренных-мерах-по-борьбе-с-коронавирусом-в-россии). One of its authors, Aleksey Minyaylo, says they hope to change Moscow’s direction before the situation becomes even more dire (mbk-news.appspot.com/suzhet/opublikovano-otkrytoe/).
He says that those behind the petition support what the government has done but believe it not only has to do more, shifting from isolation to massive testing and recognizing that the government must address the economic hardships the pandemic is inflicting on the population, given its indebtedness, and on small businesses which are losing their customers.
France, Minyaylo points out, has allocated 300 billion euros (360 billion US dollars); Russian in contrast is devoting only slightly more than one percent of that amount, a figure totally inadequate to meet the challenge.
Massive testing must begin, including with the use of foreign tests now not allowed and by private as well as public facilities also something not now allowed, he continues. Individuals and businesses must be given a debt holiday and also significant subsidies so that the pandemic does not produce a depression.
Minyaylo also called for postponing not only the voting on the constitutional amendments now scheduled for April 22 but also the carrying out of the census which will begin over the summer. Such things must be done now to avoid an exponential growth in the number of infections.
But if he and those who signed this petition are worried, many Russians are not. According to a new Romir-Gallup International poll, 54 percent of them say that the threat is exaggerated (romir.ru/studies/romirgellap-interneshnl-dve-treti-naseleniya-zemli-opasayutsya-covid-19-76-gotovy-pojertvovat-svoimi-pravami-dlya-borby-s-infekciey).
But 68 percent express some degree of concern, 60 percent say they are ready to sacrifice some of their rights to combat the pandemic, and 49 percent say what the Russian government is doing is sufficient – although 36 percent say it is not.