Staunton, October 28 – Vladimir Putin’s government has not gotten the pandemic under control, but it is doing what government’s often do in such situation: it is trying to control the information people get about what is happening. The health ministry has banned doctors from talking to the media about the pandemic without prior approval from their bosses.
This measure (snob.ru/news/rossijskij-minzdrav-zapretil-vracham-publichno-vyskazyvatsya-o-koronaviruse-bez-soglasovaniya-s-vedomstvom/) has sparked anger and concern. The Agora human rights group says it will help doctors defend themselves if they run afoul of this order (znak.com/2020-10-28/agora_predlozhila_medrabotnikam_pomoch_v_svyazi_s_zapretom_minzdrava_govorit_o_covid_19).
One reason many are concerned about this is that his staff is not forwarding to him the information they have about the pandemic and so he is often behind the curve – he doesn’t want there to be any talk about a second wave, for example (rusk.ru/newsdata.php?idar=88397), and without media reports, that situation may get worse (echo.msk.ru/blog/partofair/2732472-echo/).
The statistics keep rolling in: The government said it had registered 16,202 new cases of infection and 346 deaths from the coronavirus, a new daily record, which brings that total to 26,935 (t.me/COVID2019_official/1856). In some places, the pandemic became much worse while in others, it eased (regnum.ru/news/society/3096640.html
regnum.ru/news/3100937.html). In Moscow, most existing restrictions were extended but the government reported that it would not introduce any new ones (egnum.ru/news/3101568.html, regnum.ru/news/3101590.html, regnum.ru/news/3101600.html, regnum.ru/news/3101606.html and regnum.ru/news/3101615.html).
Moscow officials also reported that the number of Russians violating these provisions is high and rising, with 79 percent of theaters, movie houses, and shopping centers recording violations in the last few days (regnum.ru/news/3101713.html).
Beyond the ring road, the situation is dire in many places with hospitals overwhelmed, running short of medication and having to ask people on the street to help nurses and doctors care for those with the coronavirus (novayagazeta.ru/news/2020/10/28/165253-golikova-zayavila-o-kritichnoy-zapolnennosti-koechnogo-fonda-v-16-rossiyskih-regionah, mk.ru/social/2020/10/28/regiony-zadykhayutsya-ot-uzhasov-pandemii-massovoe-vygoranie-i-ukhod-vrachey.html, regnum.ru/news/3100965.html and newtimes.ru/articles/detail/198258?fcc).
Regions are also suffering economically. Putin has agreed to extend them 10 billion rubles (1.4 billion US dollars) in assistance to help them cope with the pandemic, but he has been unwilling to give more money to their businesses. As a result, many regions face a serious debt crisis (themoscowtimes.com/2020/10/28/russian-regions-face-looming-debt-crisis-a71887 and regnum.ru/news/3101497.html).
Today, the government introduced its obligatory mask requirement but continued to insist that the vaccine will solve the problem, with various officials adding that it will provide free medications to those who become infected (regnum.ru/news/3101290.html and ura.news/news/1052456266).
Reports that some Russians who had received the Sputnik-5 vaccine nonetheless came down with the coronavirus infection (rbc.ru/society/28/10/2020/5f9944249a7947bf9965dd34), prompting some commentators to say this is fake news put about by the West to undercut interest in the Russian vaccine (politobzor.net/223939-zapad-gotovit-kapkan-dlya-kremlya-protiv-russkoy-vakciny.html).
There was a slew of bad economic news: Foreign tourism in Russia is projected to fall by 80 percent this year compared to last (regnum.ru/news/3101732.html). The pandemic has eliminated the possibility that unemployment in Moscow will be seriously reduced (regnum.ru/news/3101283.html).
Economists say many sectors of the economy need more assistance from the government, but the Kremlin says there is no reason to extend it (regnum.ru/news/3101633.html, newizv.ru/news/economy/28-10-2020/kazhdoy-pyatoy-rossiyskoy-kompanii-nechem-platit-nalogi, regnum.ru/news/3101323.html and ura.news/articles/1036281350).
And to top this office, Vasily Solodkov, head of the Banking Institute at the Higher School of Economics, says that it may take Russia “not years but decades” to recover economically from the impact of pandemic (regnum.ru/news/3101429.html).
Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related developments in Russia today,
· Government investigators have launched an investigation into a case in Omsk where ambulance drivers unable to find hospitals to take new coronavirus victims dropped them off in front of the oblast health ministry (regnum.ru/news/3101013.html).
· As a joke, Russian cheesemakers have released a new variety, COVID-19 cheese. It has no taste or flavor (newizv.ru/news/society/28-10-2020/shutka-dnya-v-rossii-poyavilsya-v-prodazhe-syr-covid-19-bez-vkusa-i-zapaha).
· COVID dissidence is expanding rapidly in Russia in parallel with each new restriction (mk.ru/social/2020/10/28/rossiyane-prinyalis-oskorblyat-umershego-ot-koronavirusa-blogera.html).
· Despite widespread predictions that the pandemic will ease in the spring, some epidemiologists are saying in fact there may be a third wave and things will get even worse (mbk-news.appspot.com/suzhet/tretja-volna/).
· And a new study finds that the pandemic has strained the Russian court system to the breaking point, undercutting normal rules and opening the way for abuses against the rights of defendants (ridl.io/ru/rossijskie-sudy-obshhej-jurisdikcii-opyt-pandemii/).