Moscow locks down as Russian COVID-19 deaths surge to new highs

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By Reuters
Moscow locks down as Russian COVID-19 deaths surge to new highs
Moscow locks down as Russian COVID-19 deaths surge to new highs   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021   -  

<div> <p>By Tom Balmforth and Andrew Osborn</p> <p><span class="caps">MOSCOW</span> -The Russian capital brought in its strictest <span class="caps">COVID</span>-19 related lockdown measures in more than a year on Thursday as nationwide one-day pandemic deaths and infections hit new highs amid slow vaccination take-up across the world’s biggest country. </p> <p>Moscow’s partial lockdown, in which only essential shops like pharmacies and supermarkets are allowed to remain open and schools and state kindergartens are shut, comes ahead of a week-long nationwide workplace shutdown from Oct. 30. </p> <p>Like Moscow, some regions decided to kick off their partial lockdowns on Thursday or even earlier in an effort to cut infection numbers ahead of the nationwide initiative. </p> <p>Moscow’s residents are allowed to leave their homes unlike a sweeping lockdown in summer 2020, but the new measures point to rising concern among officials over record numbers of deaths that the Kremlin has blamed on vaccine hesitancy.</p> <p>Officials on Thursday reported an all-time high of 1,159 <span class="caps">COVID</span>-19 nationwide deaths in the past 24 hours, while the number of daily infections broke through the 40,000 barrier for the first time. </p> <p>At the State Duma lower house of parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker, proposed requiring all lawmakers to get vaccinated and suggested that stragglers should have to work remotely. </p> <p>“Imagine the consequences for the country if parliament stops working,” Volodin told the lower house. “Every day we’re seeing how our … colleagues are ending up in hospital beds,” he said. </p> <p>His proposal was met by angry shouts from the parliament’s chamber with someone calling out: “What kind of PR is this?”</p> <p>Many Russians have said they are reluctant to get vaccinated and have spurned the four vaccines Russia has registered, including the flagship Sputnik V vaccine. </p> <p>Some people say they are hesitant due to mistrust of the authorities, while others cite concerns about the safety of vaccines.</p> <p>As of Oct. 22, official data showed that 49.1 million Russians were fully vaccinated. The total population, excluding annexed Crimea, is officially estimated at around 144 million. </p> <p>AD <span class="caps">CAMPAIGN</span> <span class="caps">RELAUNCH</span>? </p> <p>The daily Kommersant newspaper reported on Thursday that the Kremlin planned to revamp the troubled public information campaign about the importance of getting vaccinated. </p> <p>The new campaign would pay closer attention to Russia’s more than 80 regions and strike a less aggressive and negative tone than previously, the report said. </p> <p>The existing campaign has often highlighted the risk of death for Russians who decline to get vaccinated rather than linking vaccination to the freedom to be exempt from lockdown-style restrictions, it said. </p> <p>However, the Kremlin denied it planned to relaunch the ad campaign, but said the strategy was constantly being adjusted and that the campaign would be continued. </p> <p>Many Russians have decided that now is an ideal time to fly off for a foreign beach holiday instead of hunkering down at home. </p> <p>There were mixed feelings about the lockdown on the streets of Moscow on Thursday. Some residents like Lyubov Machekhina said they thought it would obviously help slow infections. </p> <p>But others like Mikhail, a Muscovite who did not give his surname, voiced doubts that there would be any real impact without a larger chunk of the population being vaccinated. </p> <p>“In my opinion, it will change nothing. Perhaps, it will slow down (the spread of cases) a bit, but in fact, without herd immunity – it’s nonsense. I don’t believe it will work.”</p> </div>