Staunton, July 21 – As the spread of coronavirus infections has slowed, at least in official reports, ever more Russians are now worrying about whether there will be a second wave. Viktor Madeyev has given them real reason to worry: he says a second wave will hit in September and October and that the Kremlin will be forced to lock down the country again.
Madeyev is not only an academician but the chief advisor on epidemiology to the government’s consumer affairs agency and thus is someone whose predictions are likely to be taken seriously by both the government and the population, however unwelcome they are (krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/78374).
Today, the government reported that the number of new cases was again below 6,000 for Russia as a whole, 5842 to be precise, a figure that brings the total to 783,328. In addition, Moscow said that 153 people had died over the last 24 hours, an uptick which brings the mortality figure to 12,580 (t.me/COVID2019_official/1095).
But ever more evidence, including direct counts and not just analyses based on indirect measures like comparative death rates, shows that the government is lowballing the death figures perhaps by a factor of five, at least in one hotspot, the northern capital, St. Petersburg (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2020/07/21/86345-osobyy-poryadok).
Openings and closing continued. Perhaps most significantly, the head of Russian Aviation called for reopening international air travel from six Russian cities (versia.ru/rosaviaciya-predlozhila-vozobnovit-zarubezhnye-aviarejsy-iz-shesti-rossijskix-ayeroportov). But none were from the Middle Volga (idelreal.org/a/30739419.html), perhaps a sign Moscow will use the pandemic to cut ties between regions and foreign countries.
Despite the Kremlin’s suggestion that a vaccine will soon be available and represents a magic bullet that will end the pandemic, medical authorities are cautioning that any vaccine may have serious side effects and won’t by itself end the challenge that the coronavirus presents (ng.ru/vision/2020-07-21/7_7916_coronavirus.html).
The economic and political consequences of the pandemic continued to spread in Russia. The finance ministry has sequestered 10 percent of approved allocations because of falloffs in government income (krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/78396). Incomes in the population continue to fall (krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/78382(krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/78384).
In what must be the most interesting comment of the day, Moscow writer Sergey Aleksashenko says that Putin is using the country’s current economic isolation as proof of his belief that Russia can go it alone without any exchange with the outside world (krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/78376).
More information came in today about the budgets of Russia’s regions. They have lost more than two trillion rubles (30 billion US dollars) in income since the start of the pandemic and face disaster unless they start receiving more money back from the center (krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/78361).
On the one hand, that gives Moscow the whip hand in dealing with regional leaders because it can give or withhold money depending less on need than political loyalty. But on the other, it provides yet another reason for increasing anger in the regions about Moscow’s confiscatory approach, taking almost everything from the regions and giving little back.
Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related developments from Russia today,
· New figures show that divorces have fallen 70 percent during the pandemic largely because couples who want them have not had access to the courts. Now that the courts are reopening, experts expect a sharp increase in divorce petitions (regnum.ru/news/society/3016236.html).
· Education experts are using the disorder the pandemic has introduced in the school system to push for radical changes rather than having things restored to the status quo ante (iq.hse.ru/news/381342470.html).
· Russians are worried that the virus may cost them their beloved ice hockey season as most clubs now have suffered from a large number of infections (business-gazeta.ru/article/475410).
· And as Russians hope to return to work, they are discovering that applications for the reduced number of positions now available is leading to cutthroat competition, as employers pick and choose those they will rehire (rosbalt.ru/piter/2020/07/21/1854833.html).