Covid cases on the rise again in Russia, many coming from the Delta variant – .

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Covid cases on the rise again in Russia, many coming from the Delta variant – .


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MOSCOW – The Russian government has approved three coronavirus vaccines as safe and effective, but Vadim Zhukov took his own approach to testing: he let a friend take one first.

“I waited to see what happened to him,” said Mr. Zhukov, 21, a university student. His friend was fine. Two months later, Mr Zhukov lined up this week at a vaccination site in central Moscow.

Extrapolated across Russia’s 11 time zones and millions of hesitant citizens, that same wait-and-see attitude towards vaccination has taken its toll.

Russia is once again in the grip of a wave of the virus, despite months of assurances from President Vladimir V. Putin’s government that the worst of the pandemic has passed. The spiraling epidemic came as a surprise, even in the words of the senior officials behind those assurances.

Russian virologists say the Delta variant, first found in India, is now the most common version in Moscow. Mayor Sergey Sobyanin told local media on Friday that 89.3% of all new coronavirus cases in the city involved the Delta variant.

The rapid rise in the number of cases puts Russia at risk of following the path of other countries like India that appeared to have quelled infections only to see a resurgence.

The outbreak is most pronounced in Moscow, the capital, where the number of cases has tripled in the past two weeks, according to city officials, who have added 5,000 beds to coronavirus departments. Moscow health officials reported 9,056 positive tests on Friday, the highest daily figure for the city since the start of the pandemic.

Russia has reported 125,853 deaths from Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, but statistics showing excess mortality over the past year suggest the real number is much higher.

“This dynamic is somewhat surprising,” Sobianin said at a meeting of government officials on Thursday. Mr Sobyanin suggested that authorities had overestimated how long natural immunity from the first cycles of infection would provide protection.

In all of Russia, only 9.9% of the population is fully vaccinated, although Russia claimed last summer to be the first country in the world to approve a vaccine. For comparison, 44 percent of Americans are fully immunized.

Cases grew slowly throughout the spring and then increased this month.

“For some reason, and I think it was political, they said everything was fine,” Dr. Vasily V. Vlasov, professor of epidemiology at the Graduate School of Economics, said of the authorities. Russian. But now the infection rates are “very high and we have to act”.

Over the winter, little was done to encourage Russians to get vaccinated.

In fact, to avoid stimulating demand at the end of last year when vaccines were scarce, Mr Putin delayed his own inoculation until March, although he qualified months earlier, said the Kremlin press office. He did not receive it on camera.

Today, skepticism persists even though vaccines are widely available. The Levada Center, a polling agency, investigated Russian attitudes about vaccination in April and found that 62% had no intention of getting a Russian-made vaccine, all that is available in Russia.

“They fear the side effects. They don’t trust vaccines in principle, or they want to wait first and see what happens to others ”because of a general distrust of the government, said Denis Volkov, deputy director of the Levada Center.

Russia is now moving towards compulsory vaccines for certain workers in contact with the public in Moscow and in three provincial regions and limiting the working hours of restaurants.

On the streets of Moscow on the first balmy days of spring, police gangs were set up around children’s playgrounds and basketball courts, in a grim reminder of the persistence of the coronavirus.

City officials on Friday announced the requirement for customers to show proof of vaccination at restaurants and bars open after 11 p.m., as part of a partial introduction of a ‘vaccination passport’ approach to control access to overcrowded spaces.

The partial vaccine warrant introduced in the city this week does not put the blame on individuals. Instead, employers are required to show by Aug. 15 that at least 60 percent of their workforce is fully immunized.

The policy leaves it to managers to persuade workers to get vaccinated while allowing some to refuse. People with medical reasons to avoid vaccination do not count in the total.

Many Russians categorically refuse to take the Sputnik V vaccine, which the government approved for emergency use last August before advanced clinical trials proved it to be safe.

It has since been proven safe and effective in clinical trials which were later published in the British medical journal The Lancet.

“It makes healthy people sick,” said Ivan Ivanov, director of a construction company, when asked on a sidewalk in Moscow where he was enjoying an afternoon stroll. He said he would never get the vaccine. “I believe in God and God helps me.

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