Staunton, May 18 – Total infections in Russia rose to more than 290,000 today, although officials celebrated that the number had grown by slightly less than the daily average since May 1 and professed to see a flattening of the curve or even a turning point in the battle with the coronavirus (novayagazeta.ru/news/2020/05/18/161547-chislo-novyh-zabolevshih-koronavirusom-vpervye-s-kontsa-aprelya-okazalos-menshe-9-tysyachgraniru.org/Society/Health/m.278941.html and forum-msk.org/material/news/16456265.html).
But faith in any improvement was called into question by the government’s ever more widespread use of its police power to go after anyone who challenges its figures or complains about the failures of the Russian medical system publicly (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2020/05/18/85415-molchanie-ili-ugolovka, echo.msk.ru/news/2644749-echo.html, kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/349745/, kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/349743/ and severreal.org/a/30613609.html).
But despite such intimidation, ever more doctors and ordinary Russians reported just how bad conditions are in Russian health care and the fight against the coronavirus. Bonuses promised medical personnel are not getting to them, something even the government has acknowledged (govoritmagadan.ru/pravitelstvo-priznalo-chto-meshalo-vyplate-putinskih-deneg-vracham/ and newizv.ru/news/society/18-05-2020/minzdrav-ob-yasnil-poryadok-vyplat-medikam-za-rabotu-s-bolnymi-koronavirusom).
More than 2,000 doctors and nurses in Moscow alone have come down with the infection, often because they did not have necessary protective devices (novayagazeta.ru/news/2020/05/18/161542-v-podmoskovie-zarazilis-dve-tysyachi-medikov-rabotayuschie-s-koronavirusnymi-patsientami and echo.msk.ru/blog/erjankov_s/2644647-echo/).
Confusion reigned as 27 regions reduced restrictions in various ways and officials argued among themselves in public over whether masks help or hurt, made people stand close together in line to check for the virus and warehoused people in hospitals without equipment, heart, plumbing or personnel (rosbalt.ru/russia/2020/05/18/1843889.html, snob.ru/health/novosti-covid-19-v-moskve-priostanovili-programmu-moya-ulica-uchenye-na-homyakah-dokazali-effektivnost-masok-protiv-koronavirusa/. newizv.ru/news/city/18-05-2020/ocheredi-vystroilis-u-bolnits-moskvy-chtoby-sdat-test-na-antitela-k-koronavirusunewizv.ru/news/city/18-05-2020/ocheredi-vystroilis-u-bolnits-moskvy-chtoby-sdat-test-na-antitela-k-koronavirusu and severreal.org/a/30617350.html).
News on the pandemic-related economic front was uniformly bad. Ever more sectors are projected permanent job losses even when the pandemic passes (profile.ru/economy/unesennye-virusom-kogo-karantin-ostavit-bez-raboty-308655/), small and mid-sized businesses have lost any hope that the Kremlin will help them and face losses and closures (rbc.ru/business/18/05/2020/5ec0e48b9a79476c0568bd13), banks are refusing to make loans to them and to individuals despite official promises that they would (krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/76409 and Academician Robert Nigmatulin says Russia will come out of the crisis far further behind than it went into it (krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/76402).
And in case these news items weren’t enough, ever more Russian specialists say the controls the regime put in place in the name of fighting the coronavirus will remain in place after the pandemic to fight political and social opposition and unrest (russian.eurasianet.org/россия-какие-инструменты-надзора-за-населением-останутся-после-коронавируса).
Meanwhile, there was a slew of other pandemic stories coming out of Russia:
· The defense ministry flew soldiers to a gold mine near Krasnoyarsk to ensure that production was maintained after most of the workers there became infected with the coronavirus (novayagazeta.ru/news/2020/05/18/161544-minoborony-perebrosilo-voennyh-na-sever-krasnoyarskogo-kraya-iz-za-vspyshki-na-zolotorudnom-mestorozhdenii).
· Russia’s Sberbank has set up its own daughter company to produce and market any vaccine that may become available to counter the coronavirus (snob.ru/health/novosti-covid-19-sberbank-sozdal-kompaniyu-dlya-proizvodstva-vakciny-ot-virusa-vlasti-shotlandii-reshili-profinansirovat-organizacii-podderzhivayushie-seks-rabotnic/).
· Ismail Berdiyev, the mufti of Karachayevo-Cherkessia and head of the North Caucasus super-MSD, has been hospitalized with the coronavirus (kommersant.ru/doc/4347799).
· Alcohol stores in Urals are closing because one-fifth of sales personnel now are infected( ura.news/news/1052432177).
· The defense ministry is making money from erecting temporary hospitals to fight the pandemic even when the beds in them are not used to treat victims (newizv.ru/news/society/18-05-2020/komu-nuzhny-vremennye-gospitali-v-moskve-chinovnikam-ili-bolnym).
· Many Buryats studying at a military academy returned home infected with the coronavirus, which they apparently contracted while students there (baikal-daily.ru/news/20/390620/).