Staunton, March 31 – The Russian government has spent upwards of 10 billion rubles (1.4 billion US dollars) protecting Vladimir Putin from the coronavirus. Most of the money appears to have been devoted to paying the costs of keeping officials scheduled to meet the Kremlin leader in quarantine facilities before they did so (bbc.com/russian/features-56581095).
Russian officials today said they had registered 8275 new cases of infection and 408 deaths from the pandemic, as it continued to ebb and flow across the country (t.me/COVID2019_official/2689 and regnum.ru/news/society/3226201.html).
The Russian government announced that the healthcare system has now returned to normal, pre-covid operations, but the Kremlin conceded that the threat of a third wave of the pandemic remains (https://echo.msk.ru/news/2814268-echo.htmlregnum.ru/news/3230431.html).
On the vaccine front, the health minster announced he had been vaccinated (regnum.ru/news/3229662.html), and the defense ministry said it had vaccinated Russian military personnel in Kazakhstan (regnum.ru/news/3229714.html). But distribution problems and the reluctance of Russians to be vaccinated remain problems.
Emblematic of this is that vaccinations have been so slow in the Altay Kray that officials there would have to increase the tempo of shots by a factor of ten to meet Moscow’s goal of 60 percent immunization by July 1 (vesti22.tv/news/altayskomu-krayu-predstoit-bolee-chem-v-10-raz-uskorit-tempy-vaktsinatsii-ot-koronavirusa/).
One news item may make Russians even less willing to get the shots: Moscow city officials announced that approximately a thousand Muscovites had come down with the covid infection after they had received the vaccine (regnum.ru/news/3230792.html).
For many Russian outlets, the big news of the day was that a Russian laboratory has produced the first coronavirus vaccine for animals, continuing in the words of one commentator “the success of Russian science” (egnum.ru/news/3230452.html).
On the economic front, the World Bank revised upwards its prediction for Russian economic performance in 2021, from 2.6 percent growth to 2.9 percent (regnum.ru/news/3229738.html).
Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related developments in Russia today,
· A VTsIOM poll found that Russians are divided on the introduction of a vaccine passport, with 54 percent favoring it and 29 opposing the measure (regnum.ru/news/3230154.html and egnum.ru/news/3230089.html).
· A new Higher School of Economics study found that during the lockdown, Russian women drank more, ate more, and smoked more but also acquired new computer skills (iq.hse.ru/news/433793871.html).
· Russia’s higher educational institutions have coped well with shifting over to distance instruction, scholars report; but their students have experienced a series of negative psychological reactions to the arrangement (https://www.umj.ru/jour/article/view/1286/1076).