He just looks around his packed intensive care unit at Moscow’s No.52 Hospital.
With only about a third of the 146 million people vaccinated against COVID-19 in Russia, the country has hovered nearly 1,000 reported deaths per day for weeks and surpassed it on Saturday – a situation which Arbolishvili said “causes the despair “.
“The majority of critically ill patients are not vaccinated,” he told The Associated Press. These diseases “could have been very easily prevented if a person had been vaccinated”.
With a record 1,015 deaths reported on Tuesday, the death toll in the country is now 225,325 – by far the highest in Europe, though most experts agree that even that figure is under -valued.
These statistics “are directly linked to vaccinations,” Arbolishvili said. “Countries with a high share of people vaccinated don’t have such bad mortality figures. “
Even though vaccines are plentiful, Russians have shown hesitation and skepticism when it comes to getting vaccinated, which has been blamed on mixed signals sent by authorities since the start of the pandemic the year last.
Even though intensive care units have filled up in recent weeks, life in Moscow has continued as usual, with restaurants and cinemas teeming with people, crowds teeming with nightclubs and karaoke bars, and commuters. largely ignoring the mask warrants in public transport.
It thrills medical workers like Dr Natavan Ibragimova.
“I am thinking of the sleepless nights when we receive a large number of patients who have not even bothered to use ordinary means of protection”, declared the internist of the hospital n ° 52.
Patients who received the vaccine usually do not have severe symptoms, Ibragimova added, while the unvaccinated come to regret it.
“Patients who survive serious illness tell us when they go out, ‘Doctor, you were right and I will tell everyone that it is necessary to get the vaccine,’” she said.
So far, the Kremlin has ruled out a new nationwide lockdown like the one imposed at the start of the pandemic that has taken a heavy toll on the economy and undermined President Vladimir Putin’s popularity. The spike in infections has increased pressure on the healthcare system and prompted Cabinet officials to suggest that most public sector workers take a week off.
Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, who heads the coronavirus task force, suggested on Tuesday that such a non-work period begins on October 30 and lasts until the following week, when four days out of seven are already public holidays. The Cabinet will ask Putin to authorize the move, which would still keep many companies in the service sector open.
Authorities have also increased pressure on medical staff, teachers and officials to get vaccinated, but the pace has remained slow. Putin stressed the importance of vaccination, stressed that it should be voluntary.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov admitted that while the government has done everything to make vaccines readily available, it should have been more proactive in encouraging it.
“Obviously, more should have been done to explain the lack of an alternative to vaccination,” Peskov told reporters.
Authorities have set up vaccination sites in shopping malls and other clinic facilities where vaccines are offered without reservations or queues in advance. They have also used lotteries, bonuses and other incentives to get vaccinated, with little success.
Russia is the only place “where you can easily come and get vaccinated on the way,” said Dr Irina Beloglazova, pulmonologist at Hospital No. 52. “A vaccine offers a clear chance of survival. I wonder why people are not so lucky.
In August 2020, Russia boasted of being the first country in the world to allow a vaccine against the coronavirus even though it had only been tested on a few dozen people at the time, proudly naming the coup Sputnik V in honor of its pioneering space program.
While touting Sputnik V and three other national vaccines developed later, the state-controlled media scoffed at the Western-made gunfire, a controversial message that many saw as fueling public doubts about vaccines in general.
When asked if allowing foreign vaccine imports would help, Peskov said skepticism is not limited to domestic injections. So far, the World Health Organization and the European Union have not authorized the use of Sputnik V, and Peskov stressed that the issue should be resolved on an equal footing.
While resisting a nationwide lockdown, the Kremlin has empowered regional authorities across the country to decide on restrictions based on their local circumstances.
Many of Russia’s 85 regions have already restricted attendance at major public events and limited access to theaters, restaurants and other venues. Some have made vaccination compulsory for some officials and people over 60.
Golikova urged regions to quickly switch to the use of digital codes for access to public spaces.
St. Petersburg’s second-largest city joined others on Monday in ordering digital codes to prove vaccination or cure from infection to access conferences and sporting events from November 1. From November 15, these codes will also be required in movies, theaters, museums and gymnasiums, and on December 1, they will be required in restaurants, cafes and some stores.
The city reported the second highest number of new infections after Moscow, where authorities have so far refrained from tightening restrictions despite the growing number of cases. Moscow decided this week to tighten mask mandates on public transport.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on Tuesday that unvaccinated people over the age of 60 will have to stay at home. He also asked companies to keep at least a third of their employees telecommuting for three months from October 25.
Michael Head, a senior global health researcher at the UK’s University of Southampton, said the almost daily record virus count in Russia was hardly surprising, given the lack of restrictions and the highly contagious delta variant.
“We’ve seen time and time again that if you let sensitive people mix in, the delta variant is very, very good at spreading in communities,” he said. Experts from the WHO and elsewhere estimate that more than 80% of a population could be immune.
The government task force has recorded more than 8 million infections and ranks Russia the fifth largest COVID-19 death in the world after the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico.
However, the state statistics agency Rosstat, which also counts deaths for which the virus was not considered the main cause, reported a much higher death toll – around 418,000 in August. Based on that number, Russia would be the fourth hardest-hit country.
Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the situation was extremely worrying for Russia and the rest of the world.
Even high vaccination rates elsewhere in Europe would not prevent the virus from being reimported from Russia, especially if worrying new variants emerge, he said.
“Until we have control of the virus everywhere, there is a risk of importation and the pandemic will not be under control,” he said.
AP Medical Writer Maria Cheng in London contributed.
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic