By Paul Goble
Nearly 1.5 million Russians have visited Turkey in recent months; and many of them brought the coronavirus infection back with them. As a result, Moscow officials say, Turkey, or more precisely Russians visiting Turkey and returning, are to blame for the latest upsurge in the pandemic (regnum.ru/news/3105199.html).
Russian government officials have been careful to separate Russians returning from Turkey and Turkey itself as the cause of the new surge in infections in Russia, many Russians are unlikely to be similarly inclined; and consequently, at least some of them are likely to blame Turkey for their own problems.
And despite official assurances that the situation is under control and that Russia will soon turn the corner, Russians are increasingly nervous: 64 percent of them now say they fear getting infected, 20 percent more than March, and their interest in purchasing coronavirus insurance has jumped 60 percent in a month (svpressa.ru/world/article/280404/ and vedomosti.ru/finance/articles/2020/11/02/845560-volna-stimuliruet).
The numbers the government itself reported explain why: there were 18,257 new cases of infection and 238 new deaths from the coronavirus over the last 24 hours (t.me/COVID2019_official/1894). And media reports from around the country suggested Russia is in an increasingly dire situation (regnum.ru/news/society/3101964.html).
St. Petersburg officials said they were facing disaster unless people followed recommendations. Hospitals are close to being overfull, and the coronavirus is spreading even though the number of tests for it have fallen by 37 percent in recent days (regnum.ru/news/3105406.html and regnum.ru/news/3104776.html).
Moscow oblast and city officials said the situation was generally deteriorating even though the numbers of infections have dropped slightly in the last day (regnum.ru/news/3105409.html and regnum.ru/news/3105125.html). Beyond the ring road, the situation was desperate.
Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said that the increasing number of cases where there was a shortage or complete absence of medicines was “impermissible” and his government allocated five billion rubles (70 million US dollars) to address it (regnum.ru/news/3105100.html and regnum.ru/news/3104866.html).
Schools continued to close despite claims in Moscow that more were reopening (echo.msk.ru/news/2735446-echo.html), in some cases as in Tyva because hundreds of teachers have been infected (regnum.ru/news/3105072.html). And in 47 regions flu infections exceeded expected limits (znak.com/2020-11-03/v_47_regionah_rossii_prevyshen_porog_zabolevaemosti_orvi).
One especially horrific report came from Irkutsk Oblast where coronavirus patients brought to the hospitals there have had to wait in the hallways because of a shortage of doctors and treatment facilities (sibreal.org/a/30917921.html).
On the vaccine front, experts reported that the most common side effect from the Sputnik-5 vaccine is an elevated temperature (idelreal.org/a/30926104.html). The government has warned Russians about the appearance of a large number of fake and ineffective anti-coronavirus medications (ura.news/news/1052456816), and it insists that domestic producers can satisfy all domestic demand for PPE (regnum.ru/news/3105219.html).
There was also more bad economic news: unemployment is up, oil exports continue to fall precipitously, and the index of business activity in the Russian Federation has fallen for the second month in a row, putting an end to the slight rebound over the summer (regnum.ru/news/3105339.html, ehorussia.com/new/node/22048 and vedomosti.ru/economics/articles/2020/11/02/845554-volna-koronavirusa).
Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related news in Russia today,
- Sakhalin authorities have suspended Aeroflot flights to the region presumably to slow the spread of infections (regnum.ru/news/3104652.html).
- Buryat officials have set up a special taxi service to move about those who have been confirmed as infected with the virus (regnum.ru/news/3104645.html).
- And COVID dissidents say Orthodox priests have been informing on them to the civil authorities after the church allowed the dissidents to use its facilities (ng.ru/faith/2020-11-02/100_201102covid.html).