Tuesday, September 29, 2020

As Pandemic Surges, Putin Asks Russians to Act Responsibly, and Regions Follow Moscow in Restoring Restrictions

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 28 – Confronted with dramatic rises in the number of infections, especially in the Russian capital, Vladimir Putin has addressed the nation, saying that whether harsher measures have to reintroduced depends on Russians themselves. If they follow recommendations, a new isolation regime can be avoided (regnum.ru/news/3075847.html).

            In support of this, consumer affairs chief Anna Popova says that any calls not to observe official recommendations are impermissible and should not be tolerated, a position she did say was her own and not an official one but clearly in line with what Putin said (regnum.ru/news/3075713.html). She also said that any new restrictions would only be recommendations (regnum.ru/news/3075131.html).

            Popova suggested that increases in the number of infections was seasonal and would tape off, a position other healthcare professionals echoed when they said they expected Russia to reach a new plateau in the coming month (regnum.ru/news/3075710.html and regnum.ru/news/3075423.html). But despite these words, Moscow city reimposed restrictions and Russia’s regions are following (business-gazeta.ru/news/482554).

            According to the government, there were 8135 new cases of infection, bringing the total to 1,159,573 and 61 new deaths, boosting that toll to 20,385 (t.me/COVID2019_official/1596). The increases in Moscow were especially large, up 201 in the last 24 hours to 2,217, and the Kremlin was clearly responding to these (regnum.ru/news/3075173.html).

            Perhaps the most frightening development concerned a statistic seldom cited by Russians: the index of distribution of the infection. That figure measures the number of people an infected individual is likely to infect. When it is 1.0 or below, the situation is likely to be stable. When it is higher, there are certain to be problems.

            A week ago, the index rose above 1.0 in Moscow; today, it rose to 1.33 (interfax.ru/moscow/729003).

            Another place of concern is Russian-occupied Crimea. There the infection rate is growing exponentially and hospitals have only one percent of their beds free for new patients (meduza.io/feature/2020/09/28/v-krymu-chislo-zarazhennyh-koronavirusom-rastet-po-eksponente-vrachi-govoryat-chto-prichina-v-turistah-a-sami-mediki-ne-hotyat-rabotat-s-kovidom and newsru.com/russia/28sep2020/crimea_covid.html).

            Across the Russian Federation, the pandemic continues to ebb and flow but with more of the latter than the former over the last 24 hours (regnum.ru/news/society/3070825.html). Moscow officials keep saying they won’t close schools but ever more regions are doing exactly that (regnum.ru/news/3075556.html).

            Consumer affairs chief Anna Popova says that as of today, Russian hospitals have enough capacity to cope with the new upsurge, but 57 percent of doctors do not believe that to be the case (regnum.ru/news/3075714.html and  regnum.ru/news/3075640.html).

            The Russian Constitutional Court has taken up a suit against the Moscow oblast authorities for exceeding their authority and violating Russian laws by imposing coronavirus restrictions. The oblast rejects the charge (sovsekretno.ru/news/ks-otsenit-zakonnost-zapreta-pokidat-doma-vo-vremya-pandemii-/, vedomosti.ru/society/articles/2020/09/28/841450-samoizolyatsiyu-otsenyat and regnum.ru/news/3075870.html).

            In many Russian regions, there have been no deliveries of the over-the-counter medications and even where they have appeared, their high prices mean that there is little demand for them (newizv.ru/news/society/28-09-2020/v-regionah-net-ni-sprosa-ni-predlozheniya-na-lekarstvo-ot-koronavirusa).

            On the economic front, Aeroflot and other Russian airlines report that their domestic passenger volume has recovered (sovsekretno.ru/news/passazhiropotok-po-rf-vpervye-uvelichilsya-za-poslednie-polgoda/), but any gain from that has been more than undercut by falling oil prices and ruble exchange rates (vestikavkaza.ru/analytics/koronavirus-snova-sbil-neftanye-ceny.html).

            Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related developments in Russia today,

·         Doctors picketed in many cities over the weekend to protest the government’s failure to pay them the bonuses they were promised (regnum.ru/news/3075685.html).

·         Some Russian parents are concerned that required temperature taking of their school-age children may be harmful in and of itself (newizv.ru/news/society/28-09-2020/termometriya-detey-v-shkolah-vyzyvaet-ozabochennost-u-roditeley).

·         Some 1,000 Azerbaijanis who had been working in Russia have been unable to return home because the RF-Azerbaijani border is closed. They are living in a makeshift tent city (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/354427/).

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