Staunton, May 19 – Since the development of a vaccine, Russian leaders have been consistent in saying that vaccinations must be voluntary, but today, Dmitry Medvedev, former president and deputy head of the Russian Security Council, says that the deteriorating epidemiological situation may compel Moscow to make them mandatory.
His words have sparked a sharp debate on whether that is a good idea and what it means that Medvedev has broken with Vladimir Putin on this issue, and they have also exacerbated fears that Russia really is, official denials notwithstanding, heading into a third wave of the pandemic (regnum.ru/news/3274045.html, mk.ru/social/2021/05/19/v-slovakh-medvedeva-pro-obyazatelnuyu-vakcinaciyu-nashelsya-zhutkiy-namek.html and tass.ru/obschestvo/11412141).
Russians are already nervous about that prospect. A new Romir poll finds that almost 80 percent of them feel stressed about the coronavirus. And in the face of declining vaccination rates in Russia, officials are trying to calm the situation by suggesting wearing masks can defeat the diseases (regnum.ru/news/3273085.html and rosbalt.ru/piter/2021/05/19/1902271.html).
Russia officials reported registering 8329 new cases of infection and 370 new deaths from the coronavirus over the last 24 hours as the pandemic continued to ebb and flow across the Russian Federation (t.me/COVID2019_official/2905 and regnum.ru/news/society/3267667.html). Hardest hit were the capitals and the Russian North.
The situation in St. Petersburg was especially dire. Rates of infection, hospitalization and deaths have been rising at double digit rates over the last few days, the city is opening more coronavirus wards and even a 24/7 vaccination site, and officials are cracking down on those who ignore mask requirements (https://regnum.ru/news/3273940.html, regnum.ru/news/3273809.html, regnum.ru/news/3273768.html regnum.ru/news/3273720.html and regnum.ru/news/3272862.html).
Meanwhile, the epidemiological situation in Sakha has deteriorated to the point that schools and businesses are shifting back to online operation even as the authorities seek to boost vaccinations by opening more centers where residents can get the shots (eastrussia.ru/material/yakutskiy-sindrom-kovid-nanosit-otvetnyy-udar/).
Elsewhere in Russia’s North, people are expressing fears that they are living through the start of the third wave and that Russia is headed toward a coronavirus catastrophe in the coming days and weeks (severreal.org/a/31262617.html).
On the vaccine front, Serbia announced that has begun production of Russia’s Sputnik-5 vaccine, even as SVR head Sergey Naryshkin complained that politics had blocked the introduction of the Russian medication in the European Union (regnum.ru/news/3273892.html and regnum.ru/news/3273801.html).
And on the economic front, Moskovsky komsomolets said that Russia’s agro-industry had made “super profits” during the pandemic year because of restrictions on imports and rising demand and prices (mk.ru/economics/2021/05/20/koronavirusnyy-god-ozolotil-rossiyskikh-produktovykh-magnatov.html).