Saturday, September 26, 2020

Increasing Infections, Political Fears Driving Re-Imposition of Coronavirus Restrictions across Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 25 – For the 11th day in a row, the number of new coronavirus infections has risen in Russia in general and Moscow in particular, forcing officials to reimpose limitations they had earlier lifted. But politics – the desire of officials to use such restrictions to block protests is also playing a major role.

            For the 11th day in a row, the number of infections registered by the government have risen and today stand at 7212, bringing the cumulative total to 1,143,571. There were also 108 new deaths recorded, boosting that toll to 20,255 ( and стопкоронавирус.рф/information/).

            These increases have sparked talk that Russia has entered a second wave of the coronavirus, but they have also led to speculation that the Kremlin wants the numbers to go up so that it can lock down the population again and prevent protests against it of the kind Alyaksandr Lukashenka faces in Belarus (

            The pandemic continues to ebb and flow beyond the ring road, with schools going to distance learning in an increasing number of places even though nearly three-quarters of Russian parents are against that (, and

            But the new upsurge has hit Moscow particularly hard. The number of new cases of coronavirus infection there rose nearly 50 percent between Thursday and today, from 1050 to 1560 ( In response, Mayor Sergey Sobyanin renewed a list of restrictions on the elderly and business, closed 49 stores, sent 30 percent of city workers home to work from there, and promoted distance work in about half of the city’s companies (,,,,, and

            Sobyanin’s moves sparked criticism from the Kremlin and in the Duma, as well as grumbling in the population which polls show opposes any new quarantine to fight the pandemic (, and

            The increasing number of infections has prompted some in the Russian government to consider pressing ahead with a mass vaccination campaign even though the two Russian vaccines have not completed third-stage testing, according to media reports (

            If serious restrictions are reimposed, experts say the economy will go into a deeper recession, there will be a massive upsurge in bankruptcies and unemployment, and that the population will ignore many of the restrictions, thus sabotaging efforts to contain the pandemic and leading to more infections and deaths (,, and

            But economist Boris Kagarlitsky says that Russia’s economy would have been in trouble now and will be in more trouble soon even if there had never been a pandemic and the government restrictions it led to. Blaming the pandemic distracts attention from what needs to be done to get the economy back on track (

            Russian firms manufacturing masks and gloves, however, are beginning to make a profit on foreign sales. Having satisfied domestic demand, officials say, they have now earned 2.5 billion rubles (33 million US dollars) from selling such personal defensive devices to foreign buyers (

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

·         Moscow officials are warning Russians against going anywhere there are large numbers of people lest they become infected and urging them to wear masks, maintain social distance, and wash their hands regularly (

·         Sixty-three percent of Russians continued to receive their regular pay during the pandemic, but ten percent were paid under the table and without taxes, according to the Rabota.Ru research service (

·         The pandemic has delayed plans for the relocation of a group of Old Believers to the Russian Far East (

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