“You reap what you sow”: Russians celebrate despite record Covid figures

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“You reap what you sow”: Russians celebrate despite record Covid figures


Mthe streets of Oscou were buzzing with energy on Friday evening. At Simach, a hip bar and nightclub in the city center, the sweaty little dance floor was packed and a long line of chatty people formed outside.

Looking at the crowds, it’s easy to forget that Russia is at the center of the global coronavirus pandemic, recording daily records of deaths and infections just as global deaths from the disease have fallen to their lowest levels. in one year.

“Thank goodness we can go to bars and there are no restrictions. I am against any confinement, they will destroy my business, ”said Natalia Draganova, 34, who runs a small clothing store in the city.

Russia surpassed the symbolic figure of 1,000 daily deaths on Saturday for the first time since the start of the pandemic, and hit a new high number of infections on Monday with 34,325 reported cases.

Authorities say the country is rapidly running out of hospital beds and Russia’s chief medical officer Denis Protsenko on Friday called the situation “almost critical” with vaccinations stalled.

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Several regions reintroduced QR codes for access to public places last week as well as compulsory vaccination for certain groups, but Moscow and St. Petersburg – which are by far the biggest hotbeds of infections – have so far opted against new measures. The two cities are among the most open places in Europe.

For many like Draganova, talking about the new restrictions brings back painful memories of March 2020, when Russia entered a complete lockdown for more than two months. Small and medium-sized businesses have been disproportionately affected because the authorities have given little support to private companies, preferring to devote their resources to state employees seen as the core of the Kremlin’s support.

“I lost almost everything, so I would like to avoid this scenario at all costs,” said Draganova, a sentiment shared by many.

During the first wave of coronavirus, 60% of Russian households reported losing income due to the economic crisis.

“The Russians have always been more concerned about the economic situation than the epidemiology,” said Christian Fröhlich, professor of sociology at the Moscow Graduate School of Economics who studies public dissent.

“People have very low expectations of the government and don’t expect support during a lockdown. This helps explain why many prefer the country to remain open despite the deaths. “

Paramedics admit a Covid patient to Novomoskovsky Medical Center in Moscow. Photographie: Viatcheslav Prokofyev / TASS

When Moscow briefly introduced QR codes this summer, it quickly abandoned the program after business owners complained about declining revenues.

But it’s not just the economy that has led Russians to seemingly come to terms with living alongside Covid-19.

Polls show 55% say they are not afraid of contracting the virus, and experts argue that the Kremlin’s conflicting messages have created confusion and suspicion among the population.

Russian Parliament Deputy Speaker Petr Tolstoy on Saturday released a rare admission of the state’s failure to effectively communicate the dangers of the pandemic to the public.

“We have to be honest, the government has lost the information campaign on the fight against the coronavirus,” he said.

Denis Volkov, director of the independent polling body Levada Center, said the government had sent “far too many mixed messages to the public about the pandemic,” while the public media had spent too much time downplaying the pandemic and ridicule other nations for their harsh confinements.

“When the authorities finally started to take a more coherent stance, it was already too late and many were suspicious of the official line,” he said.

A study also showed that nearly two-thirds of Russians believe the coronavirus is a human-made biological weapon.

Volkov also said the Kremlin has repeatedly declared victory over the pandemic, lifting lockdown measures ahead of politically important events.

At the height of infections in the summer of 2020, Moscow abruptly lifted all restrictions on passing the Victory Day parade, the annual exhibition of Russian military equipment, as well as the referendum on constitutional changes that allowed Vladimir Putin to seek new terms for the presidency.

“You reap what you sow. Many have stopped taking Covid seriously after learning over and over again that the pandemic is over. This in turn is reflected in the lack of urgency to get the jab, ”Volkov said.

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Only a third of Russians have been vaccinated and opinion polls show that more than half of the population does not plan to be vaccinated. The country’s slow vaccination campaign means it hasn’t broken the link between infections, hospitalizations and deaths like Western countries have.

In a moving article on Friday that highlighted the nation’s perceived lax attitude towards the pandemic, Protsenko urged people to take the jab.

“People, it’s true, the coronavirus is not a joke or a fiction,” he wrote on Telegram. “It’s amazing that you still need to convince people of this in the second year of the pandemic. “

As Muscovites partied and went out for brunch this weekend, frontline coronavirus medics also painted a grim picture of their reality.

“We can’t go on like this. We don’t have the stamina for another wave, ”said Katerina, 24, a nurse working at Kommunarka flagship hospital in Moscow. She is one of the many medical students mobilized since the start of the pandemic to work in hospitals across the country.

“Every day I see people dying while the vaccine is right there. It makes me so angry.

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