Staunton, January 13 – Vladimir Putin has called for expanding the coronavirus vaccination program to cover the entire population, apparently driven according to some analysts by the arrival of the more deadly British strain (echo.msk.ru/news/2773278-echo.html and ura.news/articles/1036281776).
But the task facing Moscow is enormous: Residents in half of Russia’s regions do not have any access to the vaccine, but the capital continues to expand its program (znak.com/2021-01-13/eksperty_u_zhiteley_50_regionov_rossii_net_dostupa_k_vakcine_protiv_covid_19 and echo.msk.ru/news/2772928-echo.htmland drug producers say they lack the capacity to produce the amount of vaccine required to meet Putin’s goals (ura.news/news/1052466888).
One analyst even argues that Russia’s pharmaceutical industry needs an updated version of lend lease if it is to vaccinate the entire population (ng.ru/economics/2021-01-13/1_8055_economics1.html). Meanwhile, officials say that Russia will not export the medication if it affects meeting domestic needs (regnum.ru/news/3162021.html).
One worrying sign is that the Russian government has now licensed a Russian firm to produce coronavirus medications the patent for which is held by foreign firms without getting their approval. The firms have been told that this is a matter of national security (vtimes.io/2021/01/10/v-rossii-zarabotalo-prinuditelnoe-litsenzirovanie-lekarstv-a2403).
A leading Russian virologist says Russia has reached “a winter plateau” as far as coronavirus infections are concerned (regnum.ru/news/3161522.html). That is an overall assessment as in some places the numbers have gone up while in others they have declined (regnum.ru/news/society/3160299.html
Russian officials reported 22,850 new cases of infection and 566 new coronavirus deaths over the last 24 hours (t.me/COVID2019_official/2336), with experts now saying that most of the infections and resulting deaths come from very specific locations and activities rather than hitting the population in general (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2021/01/13/88676-neopoznannye-vspyshki).
On the economic front, Russia’s high tech exports fell 20 percent last year, Russians fear they will become poorer in 2021, and one region, the Transbaikal, has managed to move against the current and has actually seen tax revenues rise (krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/83044 krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/83042regnum.ru/news/3161643.html).
Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related developments in Russia today,
· Intensified border checks are leaving some regions without fruits and vegetables normally imported from abroad (regnum.ru/news/3161372.html).
· A third of the members of the Duma have been infected with the coronavirus; two have died (echo.msk.ru/news/2773132-echo.html).
· One New York-based Russia analyst says the pandemic has not only inflicted enormous suffering but accelerated “revolutionary changes” in instruction, business and consciousness (ng.ru/vision/2021-01-13/8_8055_vision.html