Staunton, October 23 – Vladimir Putin’s government has been pushing hard to overcome Russians’ resistance to getting the coronavirus vaccine as it becomes available, but the Kremlin leader in yet another instance of do as I say and not as I do still has not been vaccinated himself (regnum.ru/news/3097622.html).
This is not trivial because even though vaccines are becoming more widely available, more than two-thirds of Russians say they won’t get them and the government has been reluctant to make them mandatory for most categories in the population. The longer Putin delays, the fewer the fewer Russians will do so, and the longer the pandemic will last.
More seriously, Putin again refused to say how regions should balance protecting the health of the population and keeping the economy going, thus permitting himself to be able to avoid responsibility for that difficult choice and making it possible for him to go after governors whose choices prove wrong (regnum.ru/news/3097680.html).
Today, Russia recorded 17,340 new cases of infection, a new one-day record and a number that means just over one percent of the Russian population has been infected. At the same time, there were 289 more new deaths, down slightly from yesterday’s record 317 (themoscowtimes.com/2020/10/23/russia-surpasses-17k-coronavirus-cases-in-new-one-day-record-a71837).
Regime epidemiologists said the recent surge in new cases reflects many things but among the most important is a rise in the number of people being tested for the disease (regnum.ru/news/3097444.html). But Moscow city recorded a 21 percent jump in deaths in September compared to August, obviously independent of tests (regnum.ru/news/3097953.html).
More questions are being raised about official figures, and some experts are saying that Russian cynicism about the disease and steps taken to limit it reflect the failure of authorities to be open with them (meduza.io/feature/2020/10/23/esli-verit-ofitsialnoy-statistike-kovidom-v-peterburge-zabolevayut-v-dva-raza-bolshe-lyudey-chem-vyzdoravlivayut-rovno-v-dva-kazhdyy-den-bolshe-mesyatsa and rbc.ru/economics/23/10/2020/5f91650d9a7947b80545bc9e
Moscow officials did urge older Russians to avoid large gatherings even of family members, noting that children despite having no signs of the disease quite often infect their parents or grandparents (versia.ru/opershtab-deti-v-15-raza-chashhe-zarazhayut-koronavirusom-chlenov-svoix-semej).
In another sign that not all is well in the Russian capital, Orthodox church officials have sent 30 percent of their employees home lest they become infected (znak.com/2020-10-24/moskovskie_hramy_pereveli_30_sotrudnikov_na_udalenku).
Elsewhere, individual classes continued to be put on distance learning across the country, but officials trumpeted the fact that the number of schools totally shut down because of the pandemic fell from 122 to 118 (regnum.ru/news/3097308.html).
As part of its effort to encourage Russians to get the vaccine, the Russian health ministry announced today that coronavirus vaccines will be free (newizv.ru/news/society/23-10-2020/v-minzdrave-zayavili-chto-vaktsina-ot-koronavirusa-budet-besplatnoy).
Surveys showed that Russians are now returning to behaviors common during the first wave, eliminating visits to restaurants and building up supplies of medications (vedomosti.ru/economics/articles/2020/10/23/844287-rossiyane-vnov). Food prices in Russia during the first three quarters rose 3.3 times faster than those in the EU (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5F931786E1820).
Government policy is increasingly becoming the subject of criticism by the opposition. LDPR Duma deputies at the government for imposing ever tighter controls and monitoring of the population (regnum.ru/news/3097206.html). And Just Russia leader Sergey Mironov, who himself has become infected, called for a special emergency fund to fight the pandemic (regnum.ru/news/3097463.html).
Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related developments in Russia today,
· Putin’s healthcare optimization has closed not only hospitals but morgues, something that means many who have died from coronavirus infections cannot be processed for burial in their home towns but most be sent elsewhere and then returned (https://krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/81056.
· Because of the pandemic, migration from the Russian Far East has nearly stopped, and Russians generally have reduced plans to have children (regnum.ru/news/3097107.html and svpressa.ru/society/article/279413/).
· Former Russian president and prime minister Dmitry Medvedev says that the pandemic shows that “by themselves, political freedoms cannot save the lives of people” (nakanune.ru/news/2020/10/24/22586643/).