FOr Last year, the Kremlin was successful in the fight against covid-19. We avoided the blockade and welcomed the homemade Sputnik V vaccine. In early June, Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted to thousands of guests at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, the world’s largest post-pandemic international rally. Specific risk of spreading the infection. “
In fact, by the time Putin spoke to his Pow Wow, Russian doctors had recorded a surprising increase in infectious diseases and deaths for several weeks. A month later, Russia is in the midst of the third and most severe wave of covid-19, with more people dying daily than at any time during the pandemic (see graph).
The number of new daily cases is now around 25,000, somewhat less than in the UK and increasing. But in the UK, this surge has killed an average of 18 people a day in the past week, while in Russia an average of 670 people a day.
The contrast is even more striking because Russia is the first country in the world to approve an effective vaccine, is based on the same science as AstraZeneca in the United Kingdom and Sweden, and is clearly just as effective. However, in the UK 78% of the population receives at least one jab, compared to only 20% in Russia. The difference is not the availability or effectiveness of jabs, but the people’s trust in the government and its vaccines.
This should have been all avoided. A year ago, the government decided to lift the partial blockade (Putin called it a “holiday”), saving money and supporting the president’s declining popularity after a prolonged decline in income. I was hoping for that. Putin’s reputation has recovered, but so has the risk of infection.
When the second wave struck Europe last fall, the Kremlin chose not to spend money on helping people and businesses through a new blockade. Putin bragged about the contrast between a lively European city and Moscow, where restaurants, theaters and shops remained open, leaving people to his device and mitigating risk.
But the numbers lied. By February 2021, Russia had one of the highest mortality rates in the world. economist.. At that point, it recorded 460,000 more deaths than usual, but its official covid-19 deaths were more modest 85,000. But by removing virtually all restrictions and tweaking the numbers, the government managed to create a false sense of security.
Independent pollster Dennis Volkov of the Levada Center said this was just when people should have been urged to get vaccinated. Despite the astonishing true death toll, his February poll found that 57% of people weren’t worried about catching the virus. Most worrisome, two-thirds of the country rejected the idea of being vaccinated.
Meanwhile, the government had other priorities, such as imprisoning Alexei Navalny, the most prominent opposition, and curbing street protests. This is where the rules of social distance expansion helped. Mr. Navalny’s colleagues were put under house arrest for “urging the public to violate epidemiological restrictions.” At the same time, Putin packed 80,000 people into the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow for a ceremony to commemorate the 7th anniversary of the annexation of Crimea.
Many Russians have concluded that the rules are merely government tactics and should be circumvented like many of their prescriptions. They also took a negative view of the Sputnik V vaccine, which was launched in early December.
Sputnik V was approved before the results of Phase 3 clinical trials were available. When they were published, some inconsistencies and questions about data availability were raised, says Boris Rages, a professor of immunology at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine. Still, the data suggest that Sputnik V is at least as safe and effective as other adenovirus-based vaccines, such as those manufactured by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, he says. .. However, the damage was occurring.
Indeed, confidence in vaccines is fragile everywhere. But in Russia, no one has done so less than the Kremlin and its loyal and conspiracy media. Putin hijacked Sputnik V for geopolitical point scoring purposes. Still, he dithered with his vaccinations until the end of March and refused to be injected and photographed, despite his usual tendency towards naked breast promotional stunts. He also suggested that vaccines from other countries are not safe.
It did little to reassure many Russians that their government expected them to lie. They have a good reason. Some people who were said to have Sputnik V were actually given another Russian vaccine, EpiVacCorona, which was praised by Mr Putin, but there are serious concerns about it. Most countries do not approve it.
Unable to win trust, Russian authorities rely on sticks and carrots. In Moscow, restaurants and cafes can serve people indoors QR A code that proves that they have been vaccinated. The hospital refuses routine treatment for people without jabs. Public sector and service workers were ordered to be vaccinated. But now more people are signing up for Jab, but there are side effects: the thriving black market of fake vaccination certificates, QR Code and medical exemption. This is not a good sign for hospitals across the country as the numbers continue to grow. ■■
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This article was published in the printed European section under the heading “How to do it”.