Staunton, January 2 – The pandemic will leave the Russian population poorer and small and mid-sized businesses in a disastrous situation already next year, commentator Konstantin Eggert says; but a longer-term consequence may arise from the fact that elites in many regions will never forget the Vladimir Putin left them on their own during the pandemic.
That memory will simultaneously make them more suspicious of Kremlin promises, more committed to gaining access to the resources that will allow them to control their own fates, and more ready to listen to those in the Russian capital who promise a different approach (dw.com/ru/kommentarij-jeho-pandemii-covid-19-budet-dolgim-v-rossii-putina/a-56097757).
Today, Russian officials registered 26,301 new cases of infection, the lowest number since December 9, as well as 447 new deaths. The low figure may reflect a decline in testing over the holidays rather than a broader trend (t.me/COVID2019_official/2298 and versia.ru/za-sutki-v-rf-zafiksirovano-26301-sluchaj-zabolevaniya-covid-19-i-447-smertej).
The holidays have reduced coverage of the pandemic by as much as 80 percent, but it continues to ebb and flow across the country, with growth and new restrictions still more common than declines and the loosening of limits imposed earlier (regnum.ru/news/society/3154313.html).
One recent hotspot where conditions have improved at least slightly is St. Petersburg where the number of hospital beds for coronavirus victims free for the treatment of new infections has increased by 24 percent, after the city came close to having none a week or so ago (regnum.ru/news/3156266.html).
Skepticism about the coronavirus and the vaccines remains widespread in Russia, but according to at least some observers, skeptics are not going to do anything to block those who want to be vaccinated from getting the medications (vz.ru/society/2021/1/1/1078114.html).
The health ministry has introduced “vaccine passports” to all those who do get the medication but has not yet specified exactly how these may be used (newsru.com/russia/02jan2021/vaccine_passport.html, dailystorm.ru/news/rossiyanam-stal-dostupen-pasport-vakcinacii and capost.media/news/obshchestvo/portal-gosuslug-nachal-vydavat-sertifikaty-o-vaktsinatsii-ot-koronavirusa/).
The ministry also reported that more than 800,000 Russians have been vaccinated against the coronavirus as of today, including nearly 6,000 in hard-hit St. Petersburg. In the northern capital, 262 people have received both of the required doses (regnum.ru/news/3156237.html and regnum.ru/news/3156268.html).
On the economic front, officials said that Russia had pumped 11.1 percent less oil in 2020 than in 2019, bringing the total to the lowest level since 2010 and, together with price declines, dramatically reducing Russian earnings from the sale of oil abroad (novayagazeta.ru/news/2021/01/02/166876-neft).
At the same time, some Russian analysts are worried by a Danish bank’s projection that the end of the pandemic will spark inflation as people all at once exercise their pent-up demand and purchase far more goods in a shorter period than usual (newizv.ru/article/general/02-01-2021/samyy-strannyy-prognoz-massovaya-vaktsinatsiya-mozhet-porodit-giperinflyatsiyu-vo-vsem-mire).
Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related developments in Russia today,
· The Russian film industry reported that its market had declined by 58.8 percent in 2020 as compared to 2019 and said most of that reflected the impact of the pandemic (regnum.ru/news/3156162.html).
· The Russian Orthodox Church is urging elderly Russians not to attend Christmas services but says that it won’t close the churches unless directed to do so by the government (echo.msk.ru/news/2768004-echo.html and https://echo.msk.ru/news/2767984-echo.html).
· Ukrainian officials say they will not register Russia’s Sputnik-5 vaccine until clinical trials are finally completed (echo.msk.ru/news/2768070-echo.html).