Staunton, September 29 – A new study by the Higher School of Economics reports that two out of three Russians say they did not receive any help at all from the government during the first period of self-isolation, a fact that only adds to their opposition to any repeat of the restrictions of that period (rbc.ru/society/29/09/2020/5f72431f9a79478a90be6464).
As infections and deaths increase, ever more regions including Moscow are returning to the restrictions they had lifted earlier (vtimes.io/news/moskva-vozvrashchaetsya-k-samoizolyacii), sparking questions as to what will be shut down next (http://www.sovross.ru/articles/2030/49857), and leading to a debate as to whether a return to self-isolation will work.
One commentator, Mikhail Makogon is extremely doubtful on that point. He says that fear won’t be enough as people have adapted themselves to the pandemic and economic worries are intensifying. Moreover, if there is an attempt to go back, the government’s claims will be shown to have been lies (newsru.com/blog/29sep2020/karantin.html).
For all those reasons and more besides, the government doesn’t want to go back (vtimes.io/news/vlasti-ne-zhdut-vtoroj-volny-epidemii), but increasing infections and deaths, especially in Moscow, may leave it will little or no choice. If it doesn’t reimpose restrictions, those numbers will certainly continue their recent climb.
Even the official figures, which many believe understate the problem, are now dire. In the last 24 hours, the Russian government registered 8232 new cases of infection and 160 new deaths, bringing the cumulative totals respectively to 1,167,805 and 20,545 (t.me/stopcoronavirusrussia/2212).
In Moscow alone, there were almost 100 more cases of infection than the day before (regnum.ru/news/3076426.html), and Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin reported that the number of deputies infected had risen to 18, forcing the parliament to shift in part to distance operations (regnum.ru/news/3076496.html and regnum.ru/news/3076519.html).
And Moscow mayor Sergey Sobyanin called attention to this by extending another week the autumn vacations of school children in the capital (sobyanin.ru/koronavirus-2-nedeli-shkolnyh-kanikul). Stores in some places began to restore special shopping hours for the elderly and others at greater risk (regnum.ru/news/3076920.html).
More than 70 of Russia’s regions now have coefficients of infection greater than one, and many are restoring restrictions lifted earlier, especially as epidemiologists are predicting further increases in the next few weeks (regnum.ru/news/society/3070825.html, regnum.ru/news/3076496.html, regnum.ru/news/3076519.html and regnum.ru/news/3076155.html).
Also worrisome are reports that hospitalizations are up in some parts of the country and that pressure on the capacity of many medical facilities is increasing (svpressa.ru/health/news/277190/ and tass.ru/obschestvo/9574403).
Vladimir Putin spoke to this new reality in a meeting with government ministers and said that many Russians are tired of the restrictions they have to put up already but must recognize that unless they are disciplined about wearing masks and observing social distance, other more draconian measures may soon be needed (regnum.ru/news/3076875.html).
Putin’s spokesman says that the Kremlin leader may get vaccinated if he travels abroad, a statement that only highlights the fact that unlike many other senior officials, he has avoided doing so up to now, raising questions as to just how much confidence he has in the Kremlin-boosted vaccine (стопкоронавирус.рф/news/20200929-1430.html).
Epidemiologists pressed for increasing the rate of vaccination but expressed doubts that the Russian government could organize it (regnum.ru/news/3076358.html). One measure of the challenge is that fewer than 20 percent of Russians have been vaccinated against ordinary flu so far this year (regnum.ru/news/3076043.html).
There was one piece of positive news today about the coronavirus pandemic in Russia. Medical experts say there is little evidence that there have been any serious mutations in the virus. As a result, any vaccine that is developed is likely to be effective for longer than would otherwise be the case (regnum.ru/news/3076297.html).
On the economic front, Russian experts predict that there may be a doubling of unemployment in Russia by the end of the year (regnum.ru/news/3076573.html) and that any return to self-isolation will decimate the country’s small businesses (vedomosti.ru/economics/articles/2020/09/29/841462-povtornogo-karantina). They are doubtful the government can meet its plan to restore the economy to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2021 (regnum.ru/news/3076920.html).
Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related developments in Russia today,
· The fall draft of 128,000 may become a super-spreader event, some fear, adding to the risks that events organizers have insisted on going ahead with will be that as well (стопкоронавирус.рф/news/20200929-1427.html and novayagazeta.ru/articles/2020/09/29/87281-kinofestival-kak-triller).
· During the pandemic, scholars at the Higher School of Economics say, Russians have become more willing to help neighbors than ever before (стопкоронавирус.рф/news/20200929-0830.html).
· And one expert says that Russia’s rush to develop a vaccine has “no relationship to science and pharmacology” but is simply business (krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/80405).