Staunton, January 18 – The World Health Organization warns that humanity is on the brink of “a catastrophic moral collapse” as a result of radical inequality in the distribution of coronavirus vaccines among countries of the world, with wealth ones already getting the vaccine and poorer ones not (https://echo.msk.ru/news/2775784-echo.html).
The Russian Federation now appears likely to face something similar within its borders because the government has provided massive number of doses of the vaccine to Moscow, somewhat fewer per capita for other cities, and only a handful or none at all to many of the regions and republics beyond the ring road.
Specifically, as of today, 190,000 Muscovites have received their shots, but only 22,349 residents of St. Petersburg have. And elsewhere the figures are in the hundreds or even less, with many deciding not even to bother registering for shots now (regnum.ru/news/3166212.html, regnum.ru/news/3166188.html and regnum.ru/news/3166387.html).
As the pandemic continues to ebb and flow, Russian officials announced that they have registered 22,857 new cases of infection and 471 new coronavirus deaths in the last 24 hours, although some suggest any stabilization is “illusory,” the product of reduced testing and reporting during the holidays (t.me/COVID2019_official/2365 regnum.ru/news/3166268.html and regnum.ru/news/3165836.html).
While restrictions have been loosened in some places, in others they are being maintained or even tightened. In Kalmykia, for example, the government has extended restrictions for another month taking them into the middle of February (regnum.ru/news/3165510.html).
An algorithm developed by the St. Petersburg Center for Intellectual Logistics suggests that over the next 12 months there won’t be any significant reduction in the number of lockdowns, easing of the mask regime, or a return to normal existence for most Russians (sibreal.org/a/31046832.html).
The defense ministry isn’t reporting the number of infections in the ranks of the military, but it is reporting the number of those soldiers and sailors who have recovered. So far, that number stands at “more than 26,000,” an indication that even with military discipline, the pandemic has spread through many units (regnum.ru/news/3166335.html).
Today, when Moscow announced the lifting of all restrictions on those who can get the vaccine, consumer affairs chief Anna Popova said that “no fewer than 25 percent” of the population is already immune because it has recovered from the infection. That is less than half the share needed for herd immunity (regnum.ru/news/3166027.html, regnum.ru/news/3165979.html and echo.msk.ru/news/2775528-echo.html).
She added that she expects 20 million Russians will be vaccinated during the first quarter of 2021. If that figure is achieved, the share of the population immune to the disease would still be below 50 percent (znak.com/2021-01-18/golikova_v_pervom_kvartale_etogo_goda_vakcinu_ot_koronavirusa_poluchat_20_mln_chelovek).
Perhaps to boost the chances of Russia reaching that figure, Popova also said that those who have recovered from the coronavirus infection should not hurry to get vaccinated but rather allow others who haven’t been ill to do so first (kp.ru/daily/27227/4354017/). Foreign residents of Russia are still not getting the vaccine (regnum.ru/news/3165565.html
Moscow remains concerned that neither foreign markets nor Russians have much trust in the Russian vaccine. As a result, it has created an international experts council to evaluate Sputnik-5 and the others in order to boost confidence abroad and at home (rosbalt.ru/piter/2021/01/18/1882645.html, vtimes.io/2021/01/18/vaktsinatsiya-doverie-dorozhe-faktov-a2568 and regnum.ru/news/3165911.html).
Experts say that those who do get the vaccine will likely receive anti-covid passports from regional governments if not from Moscow (club-rf.ru/detail/4840). But public outrage appears to have led the Sakhalin authorities to cancel their plans to introduce special badges for people in that category (znak.com/2021-01-18/na_sahaline_peredumali_vydavat_beydzhi_vakcinirovannym_ot_koronavirusa).
On the economic front, industries reported that Russian airlines had varied only half as many people in 2020 as in 2019, that clothing purchases fell by 25 percent and that foreign earnings from the sale of gas had fallen 40 percent year on year (kommersant.ru/doc/4652888, krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/83119 and lenta.ru/news/2021/01/18/neft/).
Economists are warning that it will be difficult to track any recovery in Russia’s GDP because there is so little agreement on just how much it fell during 2020, with the government having one figure and experts another and much larger one (profile.ru/economy/kak-rossijskaya-ekonomika-budet-opravlyatsya-ot-posledstvij-koronakrizisa-590264/).
Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related developments in Russia today,
· Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced he had fully recovered from the infection (regnum.ru/news/3165965.html).
· Registration statistics suggest that the number of marriages in Russia fell sharply because of the pandemic (regnum.ru/news/3165652.html).
· The United Arab Emirates has begun providing direct assistance to Chechnya to help it combat the coronavirus pandemic (regnum.ru/news/3165591.html).
· Regional economist Natalya Zubarevich says that there are a few remarkable places in Russia where there are no cases of the coronavirus infection (newizv.ru/article/general/18-01-2021/natalya-zubarevich-v-rossii-est-chudesnye-mesta-gde-kovida-prosto-net).
· And controversy has erupted over plans to infect Russians with the coronavirus in order to test the effectiveness of new vaccines and treatments (babr24.com/msk/?IDE=209429).