Russia

With worrying vaccine hesitancy & recorded cases rising, Moscow mayor says city essentially battling Covid-19 ‘from scratch’

As Moscow broke its record for daily confirmed Covid-19 cases on Friday, the city’s mayor revealed his belief that the capital is restarting its battle with the pandemic all over again “from scratch”, like in the spring of 2020.

Speaking to Russia’s Channel One, Sergey Sobyanin noted the city’s hospitals are finding it very hard to keep up with the growth in Covid-19 rates, despite constantly increasing the number of available hospital beds.

“Essentially, we are starting to go through this story [with coronavirus] from scratch, with more severe consequences,” he said. “That’s why we are seeing such an explosive increase in morbidity and a large increase in hospitalizations.”

Sobyanin also revealed that the country has been hit hard by the new Indian strain of the coronavirus, now commonly referred to as the Delta variant. This strain is much more aggressive and spreads faster, he said, claiming that a person must have twice as many antibodies to resist it.

“According to the latest data that we received, 89.3% of those who fell ill with Covid-19 have the Indian variant,” he said.

The mayor also claimed that herd immunity, once thought to be at 60%, is now only 25%.

According to the official numbers, Russia recorded 17,262 new cases nationwide on Friday. The capital is taking the brunt of the latest wave, with 9,056 new infections detected in just 24 hours – more than half of all daily cases. Moscow city is home to around 10% of the country’s population.

Earlier on Friday, the capital’s authorities extended Covid-19 restrictions until June 29, meaning that bars, nightclubs, and restaurants will be forced to close at 11pm for an extra week. 

In addition, outdoor mass events will be limited to just 1,000 people, scuppering plans to host large celebrations for the EURO 2020 football championships. Playgrounds, children’s amusement rides in parks, and entertainment venues have also been closed.

On Wednesday, the city’s deputy mayor, Anastasia Rakova, revealed that the situation in Moscow has deteriorated so rapidly that hospital beds for patients may run out entirely in the next two to three weeks.

She also noted that people of working age, especially those between the ages of 22 to 55, are now getting sick more and more often, with able-bodied patients now making up 77% of all infected.

As another means to fight the growth in Covid-19, Sobyanin also announced that the city would enforce mandatory vaccination for service-sector workers.

Vaccine uptake has remained low in Russia despite the wide availability of shots. Since January 18, inoculation has been free to all comers, with many cities offering jabs not only in clinics but also in shopping centers and parks.

Those in Russia have the option of receiving three different domestically-made jabs: Sputnik V, EpiVacCorona and CoviVac. The most well-known – Sputnik V – is registered in 67 countries around the world.

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