Faced with a crushing third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, Russia is stepping up measures to restrict the movement of people who have not received the vaccine and controversial mandatory vaccination campaigns.
This Tuesday (22), the capital Moscow banned unvaccinated people from going to cafes and restaurants from the 28.
These establishments are again subject to time restrictions, but now only those who present proof of vaccination, a negative test or proof that they have been ill for at least six months can enter them.
These are emergency measures, not scheduled reopenings as happened in Israel and as they are gradually happening in Europe and the United States.
The number of cases in the country of President Vladimir Putin has skyrocketed in the past two weeks. It nearly doubled its one-week moving average to 15,000 daily cases, and this in an environment of notorious underreporting.
In Moscow, the focus of the pandemic with half of the 5.35 million cases in the country so far, the average has tripled. Saturday (19), a record of 9,000 cases was reached, repeating the day before, against 3,000 two weeks ago.
Overall, Russia ranks sixth for the number of cases in the world. Its incidence per million inhabitants is 36,000 occurrences. In Brazil, third nominal place behind the USA and India, they are 2.3 times more.
Deaths are significantly lower, but local doctors point to widespread underreporting due to the criteria for defining Covid-19 as a cause. Thus, there are 893 deaths per million inhabitants – an index 2.6 times higher among Brazilians.
“It has become chaos here. We have started doubling the shifts again, as at the start of the pandemic, but the cases are much more serious. People are dying faster,” said hematologist Liubov, 42, who works at the Kommunarka referral hospital and asks not to disclose the last name.
As of Tuesday, there was a record number of deaths in the capital throughout the pandemic: 86, in addition to 6,555 new cases. The Russian Ministry of Health points to the delta variant, the Indian, as responsible for the health avalanche.
It officially started circulating in the country in May, and the government has even identified a group of Indian students who visited Ulianovsk, a city in the south-central part of the European part of Russia, as a possible vector for the disease. .
In a country inclined to seek the responsibility of foreign agents, such precision is questionable, but the fact is that today, according to the mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, 90% of new patients in the capital have the delta variant.
To complicate matters, Russian immunization coverage is low. Although it is one of the countries that has most quickly developed a vaccine against Covid-19, Sputnik V, and that it now has two other drugs, its vaccination campaign is slipping.
Only 10.7% of the country’s total population are vaccinated with two doses, a number similar to that of Brazil. But here there are about 30% of residents with at least one dose, a number that drops to more than half in Russia.
This has led to controversial measures. Moscow made compulsory vaccination compulsory for at least 60 percent of service workers last week, followed by St. Petersburg – both are the most populous cities in the country.
Other regions, such as Tula, have been more aggressive: all at-risk groups will need to be vaccinated.
The resistance to the movement is clear, and Liubov is a finished example. Folha had questioned the doctor in March about his resistance to receiving the injection of Sputnik V.
She claimed that it would take more time to understand the efficacy and safety of the immunizing agent which, despite the reservations of some authorities such as Brazilian Anvisa, published data in reference journals with results. similar to those of the famous American messenger RNA. vaccines.
“I’m still not convinced. But now they’ve told the hospital it wouldn’t be possible to work without the vaccine,” she said, via a messaging app.
This resistance affects 34% of Russian doctors, according to a poll released last week by the class association. In the general population, surveys by independent institutes suggest that up to 60% of people do not want to be vaccinated.
The Gamaleya Center, maker of Sputnik V, says its efficacy against the Indian strain is similar to that against other strains of the novel coronavirus, and approaches 100% in actual testing. However, studies on this have not yet been published.
The authorities have made it clear the price to be paid for the lack of vaccination, and not just in the still fledgling measures in Moscow.
“The reality is that discrimination will inevitably come. People without immunity or vaccine will not be able to work anywhere. It is impossible, it will create a threat for others,” Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday.
He had been questioned by journalists about complaints which reached the office of the government’s human rights ombudsperson Tatiana Moskalkova. She said that forcibly promoting vaccinations would be “an unfair game”.
Peskov said he had read Moskalkova’s statement, but reality prevailed. “We must recognize that the world has not yet discovered a unified approach or standards for this [os passaportes de imunidade]”, mentionned.
Anton Kotiakov, the Minister of Labor, also said on Tuesday that he understands that workers can be suspended if they refuse to receive the vaccine in areas where their categories are required to receive it.
As the situation got out of hand, 17 of Russia’s 85 regions, including the most populous, reintroduced restrictions for the general public. In Moscow, shopping centers have closed eating areas, cinemas have reduced their capacity and bars and restaurants must close at 11 p.m.
St. Petersburg was on the same line and is a particularly worrying case, with the movement of foreign tourists coming to watch the seven European Cup matches played in the city.
Putin himself has warned of the exponential growth of the disease in more remote parts of the country. For him, the combination of the third wave with little vaccination also brings a reasonable political loss.
He personally promoted Sputnik V as an instrument of “soft power” in a year when Russia came under heavy criticism from the West for its crackdown on opponents like Alexei Navalni and put pressure on Ukraine.
The immunizing agent is the third with the most authorizations for use in the world, in nearly 70 countries, including Brazil – although Anvisa has limited its emergency use until it has more vaccine data.