Staunton, October 22 – Vladimir Putin says that the higher coronavirus infection rates being reported now are in large measure a product of improved diagnostics and reporting. That is, doctors are identifying as coronavirus cases illnesses that they had earlier blamed on something else (kremlin.ru/events/president/news/64253).
There is something to what he says but not everything. Doctors are doing a better job in diagnosing coronavirus infections and deaths than they did, but reporting remains problematic and politicized with officials often understating the number of cases to make themselves or their bosses look good, large numbers of independent analysts have said.
In other comments, the Kremlin leader said that businesses must be prepared for problems even as the country escapes the pandemic. That is reasonable given that the IMF now predicts that the Russian economy will recover at only half the rate of other advanced industrial states, leaving it ever further behind (imf.org/en/Publications/WEO/Issues/2020/09/30/world-economic-outlook-october-2020).
Meanwhile, it is being reported that the federal government, having generally failed to adopt a policy about how to handle the coronavirus or its economic consequences is now more or less committed to applying the policies the Moscow city government worked out in both of those areas (ng.ru/economics/2020-10-22/100_2010221205.html).
Official statistics on the pandemic remained dire: Moscow reported that 15,971 new cases had been registered in the last 24 hours, up from yesterday’s record, and that 290 more people had died from the coronavirus during that period, only slightly lower than yesterday (t.me/COVID2019_official/1804).
The Russian government also reported that 512,000 coronavirus tests had been carried out today (regnum.ru/news/3096219.html).
The pandemic continues to rate in many places, with schools shifting individual classes but not whole schools to distance learning (regnum.ru/news/society/3096640.html, regnum.ru/news/society/3092658.html and regnum.ru/news/society/3072297.htmlregnum.ru/news/3095952.html).
Officials in many places are tightening mask requirements, angering an increasing number of Russians (regnum.ru/news/3096182.html). In an unfortunate echo of American events, one passenger shot up a base after being asked to wear a mask and protect others (znak.com/2020-10-22/v_velikom_novgorode_passazhir_avtobusa_ustroil_strelbu_posle_zamechaniya_nadet_masku).
One reason the Russian government is so interested in beginning to vaccinate Russians against the coronavirus is the cost of treating those who become infected. According to one expert, costs even for those who recover run into the hundreds of thousands of rubles (regnum.ru/news/3096459.html).
As the pandemic has shifted to rural areas, more people are calling for the reversal of Putin’s healthcare “optimization,” declaring that only a return to something like the Soviet system will permit rural Russians to survive (regnum.ru/news/3096416.html, regnum.ru/news/3096434.html and echo.msk.ru/blog/volna_a/2729304-echo/).
Perhaps reflecting pandemic fatigue as well as rising prices, Russians are now spending more than they did until the onset of the pandemic (echo.msk.ru/news/2729394-echo.html), but ever more of them are falling behind in paying consumer loans (sobkorr.org/news/5F910CAE5BE1F.html).
A new study in St. Petersburg finds that employers have done less in response to the second wave of the coronavirus than they did in the first, perhaps reflecting, the authors of the study say, a better understanding of how to function in a pandemic environment (newprospect.ru/news/articles/kak-pandemiya-povliyala-na-rynok-truda-peterburga-novoe-issledovanie-hh-ru/).
A specialist on regional affairs says that the Russian government lacks the legal authority to monitor people the way it is beginning to do under the guise of defending the population against the pandemic (fedpress.ru/expert-opinion/2605880). And a new study by the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service gives the government a mixed report card on its handling of the pandemic (kommersant.ru/doc/4540610).
Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related developments in Russia today,
· Putin’s registered Cossacks will now be used as guards at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport (regnum.ru/news/3096814.html).
· The Taganka Theater in Moscow is offering special tickets for those who want to attend performances there without masks. The cost of one such ticket is 500,001 rubles (7,000 US dollars). Theater operators say the price will cover the fines the theater will have to pay for allowing those without masks to enter (regnum.ru/news/3096725.html).
· And health minister Mikhail Murashko has now finished his self-isolation after he was exposed to the coronavirus (ng.ru/news/693156.html