Moscow – Speaking last week at an economic forum that brought together thousands of people at an exhibition center in St. Petersburg, President Vladimir Putin said Russia had handled thebetter than most other countries.
“Half the world is sitting at home,” Putin said, addressing a crowd of mostly unmasked officials. “Our situation is better than in many other countries.”
Putin warned, however, that “the pandemic is not over.” The most recent government data shows this very clearly.
Infection rates in Russia have been on the rise for weeks, while vaccine deployment remains painfully slow. The country’s coronavirus task force on Wednesday reported more than 10,000 new cases of COVID-19 – the highest number since March and comparable to the daily figures reported in the country’s second wave last fall.
Authorities in Moscow, which account for more than 4,000 of the daily case count, blamed the further rise in infections, deaths and hospitalizations on residents, and vowed to increase mask enforcement in shopping malls and cafes.
“Throughout this week, we have recorded an increase in the morbidity rates of coronaviruses (…) epidemiologists link the increase in the number of infections to the non-compliance with sanitary and epidemiological measures,” said Anastasia Rakova , Deputy Mayor of Moscow for Social Policy.
“The mayor has already announced today that no restrictive measures, in particular containment, will be imposed,” Rakova said. “In these conditions, the main burden falls on the medical staff. “
Across Russia, few places require strict masks to be worn, and most businesses have returned to their normal mode of operation.
Russian authorities have resisted the imposition of new containment measures after several weeks of strict measures last spring took a heavy toll on the country’s economy. Officials said they were instead relying on at least 60% of the adult population getting vaccinated by the end of the summer to curb the pandemic.
But while the United States averages about 1 million vaccinations every day, reluctance to vaccinate still reigns in Russia. So far, only about 12% of the global population has received at least a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, compared to more than half of the US population.
Russia registered its first coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik V, in August 2020, even before phase 3 clinical trial data became available, as required in the United States and Europe. Over the past six months, Russia’s largest cities have offered vaccines to virtually anyone who wants to be vaccinated, but daily rates run into the thousands rather than the hundreds of thousands.
The most serious admission of Russia’s struggle to successfully vaccinate its people came from Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, who complained at the end of May that an “astonishing” number of Russians were refusing to be vaccinated against coronavirus, despite continued illness and death.
“We keep getting sick, people keep dying, but they don’t want to be vaccinated,” he said at the time, adding that “the percentage of people vaccinated in Moscow is lower than in n ‘any European city’.
The mayor also pointed out that Moscow was thecampaign, but that of its approximately 12 million inhabitants, only 1.3 million had actually been vaccinated.
Critics attributed the Russian public’s apparent rejection of the deadly pandemic to a poor information campaign by authorities and a lack of transparency in its vaccine approval process.
“Members of the focus groups expressed concern about the speed with which Russia has developed the vaccine, as well as the race for the vaccine between countries at the expense of rigorous clinical trials,” wrote Denis Volkov, sociologist. at the Independent Levada Center, in an analysis for the Proekt website. “The problem is compounded by the fact that authorities have so far failed to send a single, clear and unambiguous signal to society that the coronavirus is a dangerous disease and that it is necessary to get vaccinated.”
Recent polls from the Levada Center have consistently shown that a majority of Russians say they are not afraid of getting sick with COVID-19, nor are they ready to be vaccinated with COVID-19. Russian vaccine Sputnik V.