COVID-19: Reluctance to vaccination and lax lockdown approach trigger record number of coronavirus deaths in Moscow

COVID-19: Reluctance to vaccination and lax lockdown approach trigger record number of coronavirus deaths in Moscow

As Moscow suffocates in the hottest temperatures for 120 years, it is also setting dangerous new records in terms of COVID-19 infections – a third wave driven by the Delta variant.

Wednesday Moscow recorded 88 COVID-related deaths, the highest daily number since the start of the pandemic.

According to the city’s health service, 100,000 people are currently infected with the virus, including 14,000 seriously ill in hospital.

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People are lining up for the Sputnik V vaccine. Photo: Anastasya Leonova

Moscow’s mayor Sergei Sobyanin said last week that the vast majority, almost 90%, belonged to the Delta variant.

From Monday, he introduced new measures in bars and restaurants in the city.

Only people with QR codes proving they have been vaccinated, had the virus in the past six months, or had a recent PCR test will be allowed entry.

Industry representatives say it would be best to shut down completely. With just 14% of Muscovites vaccinated, they say restaurants will not survive.

Galina and Alexey Mirmanov have dated very little in the past year, but they still contracted the virus.

Mr. Mirmanov is in intensive care, his wife is recovering at home.

She says they regret not having taken the vaccine: “Alexey worked from home and I’m a housewife so we didn’t think we needed it. We used to go to church but always wore masks but with the good weather and the numbers going low everyone was relaxing. “

After ruling out the prospect of compulsory vaccinations, national and regional authorities are now considering a more stringent approach.

Moscow introduces compulsory vaccination for 60% of workers in the service sector.

A closed playground in the capital. Photo: Anastasya Leonova

The Kremlin says the current situation requires “strong measures”.

But Russians in general are reluctant vaccine takers and despite a death rate proportional to the sixth highest number of coronavirus cases in the world, the pandemic has not changed its mind.

So far, only 20 million people have taken a first dose of any of Russia’s three vaccines, or around 14% of the population. In the UK, 82% of the adult population has received at least one dose of other vaccines.

On Wednesday, Interfax reported that Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said: “To date, 20.7 million people have received the first dose of the vaccine, and 16.7 million of them have received both doses. “

The rush to approve and export Sputnik V as the world’s first COVID vaccine has not helped, with the Kremlin appearing more interested in geopolitical victories than public health.

There have also been very few targeted messages around the vaccine since the start of the pandemic, just as there were minimal restrictions after an initial two-month lockdown.

Moscow was almost unique in its lax approach to nightlife, attracting many lockdown escapees who came to the Russian capital to party. As other European cities reopen, it may be close to paying the price.

Moscow is experiencing a heat wave with temperatures expected to reach 36 ° C on Friday. Photo: Anastasya Leonova

“The government played liberal democracy by saying that you have the right to be vaccinated or not, it is up to you to decide”, explains Vasily Anikin, sociologist at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

“But people here are reacting to the stick, not the carrot mechanism. And it is disappointing for us because the population should be more conscientious. “

Unlike in Europe where vaccination campaigns have been accompanied by appeals for the public good, this kind of language does not resonate with the Russians.

Mr Anikin believes this is a sign of socio-cultural backwardness, a legacy of the unrest of the 1990s after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

“Everything was destroyed, the notion of public good disappeared, only personal interest was in charge. People remember it. They think what the public good is if I lose? I don’t want to lose anymore. “

“Russians don’t care much about other people,” a doctor at one of the city’s COVID utilities told Sky News on condition of anonymity.

“If it was on television that the doctors worked hard, people would get angry and say they made money out of it. Human life is cheap. “

He said treatments developed over the past year and a half were not working against the new strain.

The patients who arrive are younger, many have already had coronavirus, and they become seriously ill much faster.

Medical specialist pushes stretcher outside Moscow hospital
Medical specialist pushes stretcher outside Moscow hospital

“Last winter, in the last wave, if you were young, 50 or 55, you were pretty much guaranteed to survive no matter what. Now it’s not set in stone, ”he said.

If the Delta variant wreaks havoc in Moscow, where there are 24,000 COVID beds and first-rate public hospitals, it could prove catastrophic once it hits the regions.

Medical facilities in some regions of Russia are exceptionally poor. The true scale of the pandemic in the regions has tended to be swept under the carpet, with the death toll massed to better meet what are assumed to be Moscow’s expectations.

The capital has always been the center of the outbreak, but it’s only a matter of time before the Delta variant sweeps east if it hasn’t already.

And vaccination rates in Russian regions are much lower than in the capital.

“We joke that when someone dies from COVID, in the autopsy protocol we will just write, ‘I was a jerk and didn’t get the vaccine,’” the Moscow doctor said.

“’And now I’m dead. ”


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