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October 25, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9607

Russian Columnist Gurevich: Coercive Measures To Increase COVID Vaccination Rate Are Needed To Prevent A Sick And Dying Russia From Isolating Itself From The World

October 25, 2021
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 9607

At an October 20, videoconference between Russian President Vladimir Putin and government officials, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova pointed to the alarming Covid-19 statistics featuring a daily mortality rate exceeding 1000 cases and the overwhelming of the Russian hospitalization system "There are 276,500 hospital beds [for COVID-19 patients] deployed in Russia… As of yesterday morning, 86.6% of hospital beds nationwide were occupied. 40 regions demonstrate [hospital] occupancy rate higher than the national average. In 27 regions the [hospital] occupancy rate is exceeding 90%. However, the situation is most difficult in the Stavropol Krai, the Republic of Adygea, Chelyabinsk, Orel, Amur, Samara and Saratov Oblasts, in which the [hospital] occupancy rate exceeds 95%", said the Deputy Prime Minister.

Golikova complained that many of those infected do not observe self-isolation and take sick leave but continue to work, thus spreading the disease. Putin accepted Golikova's suggestion and made the period spanning October 30 and November 7, 2021 non-work days taking advantage of the public holidays in that interval. [1]

Other initiatives proposed by Golikova include:

  • Unvaccinated employees aged 60 years and over will be transferred to remote work for a month;

  • Employees should receive two days off for COVID-19 vaccination;

  • Anti-epidemic measures in the public transport should be intensified;

  • Catering and entertainment facilities should stop functioning from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.;

  • Expensive anti-Covid drugs are to be purchased for the hospitals via a unified purchasing system.


Tatyana Golikova (Source: Ria.ru)

Putin, at the meeting demanded that the governors provide accurate COVID-19 statistics for their regions.

"Under no circumstances should the [COVID-19] statistics be underreported or should the real situation be embellished," stressed Putin. By this statement, Putin appeared to provide confirmation that Russia had previously cooked its Covid statistics, and had maybe inspired a false sense of optimism.

Putin was aware of the time honored Soviet/Russian practice of painting a rosy picture due to apprehension of being blamed for failures. Putin assured his listeners: Please keep in mind that we must deal with the situation in the following manner: If a Russian region records more new cases, this does not mean that the local authorities are doing a bad job. On the contrary, this means that, on the whole, the regional authorities are working effectively and are taking preventive action, and that they are not engaged in window dressing. This reflects the efficiency of regional teams’ work, rather than the other way around.[2]

Putin reminded the governors that the ultimate responsibility lay with them "Naturally the epidemiological situation develops differently in each federal subject, has its own momentum and trends. Thus, the regional heads were provided with the right to introduce additional [restrictive] measures. We have agreed on such a system from the very start of the pandemic, when the restrictive measures were introduced."[3]

Putin, who had self-isolated, when many in his entourage had become infected also voiced his incomprehension about his countrymen's refusal to vaccinate:

"I asked people from my circle, classmates, 'Did you get a shot?' The reply was 'What about you, did you get vaccinated?' 'Not yet,' I said. 'I'll wait for you to get a shot,' [my friend told me]. Okay, so after I got vaccinated, I asked again, 'Did you get vaccinated?' The answer, was 'no.' So, I wondered, 'Why not?' [And he told me], 'Well… I don't know, I'll just wait,'.

"It's strange behavior for people that have good education, academic degrees. I don't understand what's happening. We developed a reliable and safe vaccine," said Putin.[4]

Perhaps anticipating the continued government temporizing at the meeting, Kommersant columnist Mikhail Gurevich penned an article titled "There Are No Good Ways Out of the Pandemic Dead-end, in which he called for tougher measures, even to the point of depriving unvaccinated senior citizens of their heavy discount on mass transit or charging the unvaccinated for their hospital stay. As many Russians have doubts about the efficacy of Russian-developed vaccines, Russia should allow the free importation of foreign vaccines. If the necessary measures will not be taken " Russia will inevitably become the most coronavirus-ridden superpower in the world, i.e. sick, dying and isolated from the remaining outside countries."

Gurevich's column follows below: [5]


Mikhail Gurevich (Source: Jewishmagazine.ru)

"The number of parents striving to overturn COVID-19 rapid testing in schools is growing. According to "Kommersant," several groups of [schoolchildren] parents in the capital are dissatisfied with the pilot project and filed more than 300 complaints to the Prosecutor's Office and the Investigative Committee. They demand verification that the experiment, begun last week in 10 of Moscow schools, is in compliance with the law. Besides that, some parents are displeased with the fact that children, who refused to be examined, were barred from attending classes. In turn, the Moscow Department of Education and Science noted that in such cases the law grants the right to exclude schoolchildren from studies. "Kommersant FM" columnist, Mikhail Gurevich believes that rapid testing for COVID-19 should be expanded not only in the schools.

"Against the backdrop of everyday Moscow life, the galloping pandemic statistics look like news from another planet. Restaurants are open, the metro and buses are crowded with people without masks, and the capital's cultural life is astonishingly diverse.

"Meanwhile, last weekend, to go purely by official statistics, Russia surpassed 1,000 cases of daily COVID-19 fatalities, with more than 34,000 new daily cases of infection. Given that even government representatives acknowledge the gap between the published data and reality, one can only speculate what coefficient should be used to multiply these numbers. However, even without any such speculations, Russia assuredly ranks in the top five countries of the world [in terms of COVID-19 indicators. If this trend won't be reversed, in the coming weeks we have a considerable chance to top the coronavirus ratings. 

"As has frequently happened in Russian history, Nikolai Chernyshevsky's novel "What is to be done?" is again competing with Alexander Herzen's work "Who is to blame?" There are no good ways out of the pandemic's dead-end. In fact, all the incentive options for motivating people to observe epidemiological precautions and voluntarily vaccinate have already been exhausted.

"The resultant 31.7% [of vaccinated residents] is not only two times smaller than that of Europe, but also markedly lower than the global average. That average comprises non-highly advanced third world countries as well. I don't even want to mention the mask wearing statistics. As one doctor, tired of endless shifts in a COVID-19 hospital sadly joked with me, "the one hope is the winter frosts, when a mask will transform into an added accessory for keeping warm." Such faith in nature certainly inspires optimism, but one cannot get by without action by the authorities.

"It's too late to simply urge people to make use of protective devices, we have to control wearing them at least on public transport. By the way, it would be a sound idea to deprive pensioners without vaccination certificates of preferential transport fares.

"It is high time to extend the regular COVID-19 testing experiment to all schools and later to companies with large numbers of employees. Students in classes with infected children, should be transferred to remote learning. If talks with the WHO to recognize Sputnik V will not reach agreement, it would be worthwhile to allow foreign vaccines into the country.

"Another right move is to publicize the statistics on hospital occupancy. According to various estimates, in Moscow more than 75% of hospital beds are occupied, but in some regions the figures total as high as 95%. Maybe, at least, the prospect of a problem with hospitalization will prompt the [vax] refusers to agree to a life-saving shot.

"And, of course, once again the question of charging the anti-vaxxers for treatment costs. Today, each hospitalization costs the budget up to 600,000 rubles [about 8,466 USD]. By refusing to get vaccinated, people are playing roulette with their own health and that of those around them. Such free-bet gambling should not exist. It is hard to say how quickly the aforementioned measures will bear fruit, but without them, Russia will inevitably become the most coronavirus-ridden superpower in the world, i.e. sick, dying and isolated from the remaining outside countries."

 

[1] Kommersant.ru, October 20, 2021.

[2] Kremlin.ru, October 20, 2021.

[3] Gazeta.ru, October 20, 2021.

[4] Vz.ru, October 20, 2021.

[5] Kommersant.ru, October 18, 2021.

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