Staunton, September 18 – As coronavirus infections and deaths continue to rise (t.me/COVID2019_official/1524), many Russians fear a second wave of the pandemic is starting (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2020/09/18/87143-vozvraschenie-korony-oblozhka-dnya) and Kremlin officials reportedly fear this could destroy Russia’s economy (svpressa.ru/society/article/276267/).
On the one hand, officials are trying to be upbeat and continue to say there will not be any repetition of the earlier restrictions (ura.news/news/1052450373 and regnum.ru/news/3067924.html); but on the other, ever more senior officials are saying Russians must wear masks and maintain social distancing to avoid a second wave (ura.news/articles/1036281132).
The pandemic continued to ebb and flow across the country, with the most obvious closings being schools which are shutting down in many regions despite Moscow’s pledge that the country isn’t going to go back to distance learning (regnum.ru/news/society/3064298.htmlregnum.ru/news/3067430.html, regnum.ru/news/3067174.html, regnum.ru/news/3067428.html and regnum.ru/news/3067174.html).
Despite the closings which have hit higher educational institutions harder than any others, foreign students have appealed to Moscow to reverse its decision not to allow them to return to Russia to study (novayagazeta.ru/news/2020/09/18/164351-inostrannye-studenty-poprosili-pravitelstvo-razreshit-im-vernutsya-v-rossiyu-i-prodolzhit-obuchenie).
Controversy continues over the Sputnik 5 vaccine, with its producers saying those who have been inoculated suffering from only minor side effects, while scholars are pointing to more fundamental problems involving both safety and effectiveness (sovsekretno.ru/news/direktor-tsentra-gamalei-rasskazal-o-neznachitelnykh-pobochnykh-effektakh-ot-vaktsiny-protiv-covid-1/ and regnum.ru/news/3067868.html).
The big news today is that the health ministry has approved for over-the-counter sale two medications that help limit the impact of coronavirus infections, but happiness about that has been tempered by the fact that the cost of these medications price them beyond the ability of many Russians to use them (regnum.ru/news/3067794.html, ria.ru/20200917/koronavirus-1577408918.html and kommersant.ru/doc/4494232).
Because the pandemic continues to affect the economy, the economic development ministry is currently discussing extending the ban on bankruptcies which has been in place since April 2020. If it is, that will hide some of the carnage among businesses for a time (regnum.ru/news/3067727.html).
Rosstat reported that Russians in poverty had increased during the second quarter largely because of the pandemic to nearly 20 million people or 13.5 percent of the population (rosstat.gov.ru/folder/313/document/99486). Banks reported an upsurge of cash transfers abroad, but this may not mean what it appears.
Instead of indicating that immigrant workers are making more money and sending it home, it may simply show that people who have been working in Russia are sending money abroad to purchase goods or in preparation for leaving the country (rusmonitor.com/migranty-vyveli-rekordnuyu-summu-deneg-iz-rossii.html).
Moscow did announce that it will be resuming flights over the next week to Kirgizstan, Kazakhstan, Belarus and South Korea (regnum.ru/news/3067929.html).
Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related developments in Russia today,
· Consumer protection officials said that there was no basis for fears that the coronavirus was being transmitted via fruits and vegetables (regnum.ru/news/3067202.html).
· Moscow officials said Russians had spent more than 10 billion rubles (130 million US dollars) on spurious cures for the virus since February (og.ru/ru/news/114632). They also reported that interior ministry investigators are having a hard time identifying the fake certificates of non-infection some Russians have been buying online (theins.ru/obshestvo/234944).
· Russian prison officials say only 1224 inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus, but prisoner rights activists say the real number is far higher and have called for an amnesty lest those jailed suffer and die from the pandemic. Moscow so far has proved deaf to such proposals (ridl.io/ru/posledstvija-pandemii-v-rossijskih-tjurmah/).