Staunton, November 18 – While better off regions in Russia may be able to escape a new lockdown, epidemiologists say, poor regions lack the resources needed to do so and therefore will almost inevitably follow Buryatia into a new lockdown as the pandemic intensifies, Russian experts say (regnum.ru/news/3119001.html).
Given how unpopular the lockdown there is and opposition to the idea elsewhere, such a trend is likely to spark protests in places that have seen few political demonstrations in the past, especially as lockdown restrictions are being imposed on local businesses but not on branches of Moscow-centered ones (regnum.ru/news/3118342.html and sibreal.org/a/30956461.html).
What such a pattern of lockdowns will mean is that the poorest regions of Russia will fall even further behind the richest, sparking not only more anger among the former but also increased migration flows into the latter, something many in the currently better-off regions will not welcome because of the depressing effect of this on wages and salaries.
Moscow is in effect backing this trend, with Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova saying the regions should introduce new restrictions to fight the virus, and Vladimir Putin adding that Moscow should not just curse but help regional leaders, although not promising any new aid (ura.news/news/1052459224 and regnum.ru/news/3118870.html).
That reflects what economist Aleksey Zubets says is Moscow’s general approach. Despite Kremlin claims, he argues, “the role of the government in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic has turned out to be minimal” and appears likely to remain that way despite worsening figures (regnum.ru/news/3119049.html).
And the numbers are getting worse. Today, the government said it had registered 20,985 new cases of infection and 456 new coronavirus deaths, the latter being a record for the entire pandemic so far (t.me/COVID2019_official/2003). More than 500,000 medical workers are now focused on combatting the pandemic, 220,000 Russians are in hospital for it, and more than a million are being monitored at home (regnum.ru/news/3118917.html and regnum.ru/news/3118886.html).
Russia has given more than 70 million tests for the coronavirus, but just under half of the federal subjects don’t have enough medicines for those released from hospital (regnum.ru/news/3118399.html and regnum.ru/news/3118907.html).And the rate of growth of infections per capita has jumped since early October by250 percent from six to 15 cases per 100,000 population (echo.msk.ru/news/2744018-echo.html).
The pandemic is hitting almost all places hard, but the regions are suffering far more than the two capitals (regnum.ru/news/society/3116623.html). In Moscow, the big fights are over fines for violation of the isolation regime and anger that Moscow State University won’t cut tuition now that it has shifted to distance learning (echo.msk.ru/news/2743636-echo.html and echo.msk.ru/news/2743830-echo.html).
And in St. Petersburg, the big news of the day is that food courts in shopping centers have been ordered closed (meduza.io/news/2020/11/18/v-peterburge-zakroyut-fud-korty-v-torgovyh-tsentrah-i-ogranichat-chislo-zriteley-na-kontsertah).
But farther from the center, hospitals are overwhelmed, lack staff and even basic medicines. As a result, senior officials who become infected had fled to Moscow for treatment, although some of them have felt compelled to say that they are doing so for “altruistic” reasons such as not taking beds locally that could be used for others (regnum.ru/news/polit/3118783.html).
Moreover, according to government figures, 85 percent of Russian apothecary shops don’t have the required medicines. That has led ever more Russians to turn to home-made homeopathic cures, which mostly don’t work and sometimes inflict more harm than good (echo.msk.ru/news/2743902-echo.html and kp.ru/daily/21712089/4323853/).
On the economic front, some economists say that the current pandemic-related crisis is not as bad as other downturns Russia has suffered since 1998, but others suggest that it is going to last into the middle of 2022 (rbc.ru/economics/19/11/2020/5fb52dac9a7947234c4d28d1 and regnum.ru/news/3118587.html).
Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related developments in Russia today,
· Russians having suffered lockdowns are purchasing equipment and components at record levels to make moonshine (regnum.ru/news/3118705.html).
· Putin has ordered the formation of a commission to study how China has fought the pandemic as a way of getting new ideas for Russia going forward (ura.news/articles/1036281464).
· And the Moscow Patriarchate has responded in a sharply negative way to calls from some officials to limit in any way church services (rusk.ru/newsdata.php?idar=88507).