On Tuesday, Russia’s third consecutive month of coronavirus deaths was reached. Daily new infections in Russia surpassed 25,000 for the third day in a row. This is despite stagnant vaccination rates and the unwillingness of the government to impose severe restrictions to stop the spread.
The Russian state coronavirus taskforce reported Tuesday’s 25110 confirmed cases and 895 deaths. This is the highest daily death rate in the pandemic. The 890th death was recorded on Sunday. The 887th occurred on Friday.
Although the Kremlin stated that the situation is alarming, it does not plan to implement any national measures or lock downs.
Tatyana Golikova, Deputy Prime Minister and head the coronavirus taskforce in Russia, said Tuesday that Russia is on track to register 30,000 coronavirus cases per day. She said that there are three times as many confirmed coronavirus infections this fall than last year.
Golikova stated that the government had discussed several measures with local authorities that would prevent a lockdown. She did not give details on what these measures might entail and said only that they would be a stage-by-stage approach based on the epidemiological situation specific to each region.
Some Russian regions restrict attendance at mass events and limit access to public places such as bars, theaters, and restaurants to people who have been vaccinated or recently recovered from COVID-19. Critics question whether these measures will slow down the surge.
Golikova promised Tuesday grants to regions if the region declared itself “free from COVID-19.”
Some areas of Russia, such as St. Petersburg and Moscow, are still relatively normal. Businesses continue to operate as usual, and mandates are not strictly enforced.
In the meantime, Russia’s massive, but severely underfunded, health care system began to show signs that it is being overwhelmed by the epidemic.
Russian media reported that long lines of ambulances formed again in front of St. Petersburg’s hospitals. A desperate ambulance crew from Vladimir drove a COVID-19 victim to a local government building after she failed to find a bed in a hospital.
Officials blame low vaccination rates. Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesperson, said Tuesday that the main cause of Tuesday’s record number of deaths was the insufficient vaccination.
“The virus is getting angrier and the vaccine is not sufficient. Peskov said Tuesday that the virus is becoming more aggressive and that people who aren’t vaccinated often fall ill and die.
Golikova stated Tuesday that 33% of Russia’s 146 million inhabitants had received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine and only 29% were fully vaccinated.
Gogov.ru is an independent website that tracks vaccinations across Russia. It claims that immunization rates have dropped to April after spiking between June-August, when dozens Russian regions made shots compulsory for certain groups. According to the website, 129,000 people receive their first shot every day and there are approximately 244,000 second and third shots being administered each day in Russia.
Peskov attributed the slow rate of immunizations to an “insufficiently active campaign explaining the fact that there are no other options” to vaccination.
Experts point to other factors such as the mistrust that accompanied the approval and rollout Sputnik V’s dominant domestic vaccine. This was despite the fact that it had not completed large-scale clinical trials to prove its safety. Also, there was a lack of motivation to receive the shots in a time where few restrictions were in place and mixed signals from authorities regarding the outbreak.
Moscow officials announced Monday that the Russian capital’s largest vaccination station in Gostiny Dvor was closed. This is to allow for “cultural events” to take place there, despite the high levels of infection.
Sergei Sobyanin, Moscow Mayor, also promised to offer free rapid coronavirus testing in malls and government service centers. The number of new infections per day in Moscow has nearly quadrupled in the past month. They rose from around 1,100 in September to almost 4,000 this week.
Another confusing message was that Russian media outlets reported Monday that Anna Popova, the head of Russia’s public health agency banned mass events due to the surge. However, they later corrected their report to state that Popova wasn’t referring to new restrictions but rather to the ones in place that prohibit public events that exceed 3,000 people.
Russia’s coronavirus taskforce has reported nearly 212,000 deaths and 7.6 million confirmed cases. Rosstat, Russia’s statistical service, retroactively tallied coronavirus-linked mortality. However, these numbers are much higher than the reports.
Moscow officials announced that they would be reintroducing lotteries to encourage vaccine uptake. On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Golikova recommended that such lotteries be held monthly until the end.