Russia and Ukraine are imposing new coronavirus restrictions regionally and pleading with their citizens to get vaccinated, in a sign that both countries have been unable to cope with rampant outbreaks brought on by low vaccination rates.
The restrictions are a reluctant effort that authorities say will save lives as both countries seek an answer to questions about vaccines. About 30% of Russians and only 16% of Ukrainians have been fully vaccinated.
Amid a wave of “worst case” cases, Moscow authorities shut down non-essential services for 11 days on Thursday, two days before the start of a week-long national holiday announced by President Vladimir. Putin last weekend. Schools and many offices in the capital have been closed, and restaurants have been asked to offer only a take-out service.
The Russian military announced plans to establish a coronavirus hospital in the Moscow region. The “specialized hospital” would be run by “brigades of doctors and nurses,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement quoted by state media.
The latest wave of infections in Russia has put the Kremlin in a difficult position. He has had to admit to a nationwide failure to stop the spread of the virus, but he also wants to distance himself from the new lockdown measures, which are extremely unpopular with ordinary Russians.
Records are being broken almost daily in Russia and Ukraine. On Thursday, Russia reported new one-day highs of 1,159 deaths and 40,000 infections. Ukraine reported a record 734 coronavirus-related deaths on Tuesday and 576 deaths on Wednesday.
Ukrainian officials say some people who need to be vaccinated, such as teachers, have tried to avoid the prick by buying fake vaccination certificates. Kiev’s local government said it would require residents to present vaccination certificates to use restaurants, gyms and public transportation.
Health Minister Viktor Lyashko has called the rise in hospital admissions “unbridled”. “I ask everyone to get vaccinated,” he said during a briefing on Wednesday. “We can and must stop these sad statistics.”
Under pressure on Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied that there were plans for mandatory vaccination in Russia and also denied reports that the Kremlin would relaunch its fledgling media campaign in favor of vaccination. Just over 30% of Russians have received two doses of one of Russia’s domestically produced vaccines, according to government data, and according to polls, nearly half the population has ruled out getting needle sticks. The Kremlin’s initial goal was to be 60% fully vaccinated by the end of the summer.
“Until we achieve our goal and reach the threshold of public immunity, we will consider all our efforts insufficient,” Peskov said during a conference call with journalists. “These conditions are very simple: an unvaccinated person can die, an unvaccinated person will find life uncomfortable. The harsh conditions are dictated by circumstances. “
Enforcement of the new closures has largely fallen to regional officials, who have taken on the unpopular task of temporarily shutting down local businesses or reintroducing the use of unpopular QR codes that were described last year as a “cybergulag.”
“The situation in Moscow is developing according to the worst case scenario,” Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin wrote on his blog when announcing the coronavirus restrictions last week. Advising Muscovites to go to the park or spend a few days in a country house, he wrote: “Let us relax a little and we will help save the lives and health of many people. And then the city can go back to normal life. “
Past restrictions have been criticized by Moscow small business owners who have lost customer revenue and seen little financial support from the government.
Locals in Moscow flocked to bars and restaurants on Wednesday night before the closures occurred, while others planned to travel to resorts to avoid staying in Moscow during impromptu vacations. Russian cities, including St. Petersburg and Sochi, have prepared for an influx of Muscovites who hope to avoid the restrictions. Areas of Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014, have established checkpoints for vaccination certificates or negative PCR tests.
Under the guidelines, schools in Moscow will be closed, restaurants and cafes will be limited to providing take-out orders, offices will be largely restricted, and most in-person government services will be suspended.
Putin also confirmed this week a decision to ban restaurants and bars across the country from being open between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.
Earlier this week, the head of the Russian laboratory that developed the Sputnik V vaccine said that most Russians who claimed to have been vaccinated and then became ill had bought fake vaccine certificates to avoid receiving the vaccine. “People spend money and then get sick and die for their own money,” said Alexander Gintsburg, director of the Gamaleya center. “They are deluding themselves.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism