Russia is in the grip of a third wave of the coronavirus that is threatening to overwhelm the country’s health service. The capital, Moscow, recorded 144 COVID-19 deaths in 24 hours on Sunday – that’s the highest rate since the beginning of the pandemic. And an average 20,000 new infections are being reported across the country each day. Authorities are imposing strict new measures to counter the surge.
St. Petersburg’s city beach couldn’t be busier. With temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius, thousands of Russians have come to the Gulf of Finland to escape the hot weather – and social distancing.
Russia is in the middle of its third coronavirus wave – thanks to the rapidly spreading Delta variant. The authorities are sounding the alarm: The new mutation accounts for almost 90 percent of new cases.
Officials are talking about more than 20,000 new infections every day, most of them in Moscow. To get the situation under control, the Russian capital has reopened field hospitals and built medical stations especially for coronavirus. All hospitals are quickly being reequipped to handle COVID-19 patients.
But their main goal is to get more citizens vaccinated against COVID-19. Russia was the first country in the world to get a vaccine to market – with Sputnik Vee. So far, however, only 10 percent of the population has been vaccinated. The government wants that to change – by decree. From now on, all companies in Moscow must have at least 60 percent of their workforce vaccinated.
Restaurants are still open, if only until 11 p.m. But in the future, only people who have been vaccinated, or who have a medical certificate showing they have recovered, or who have a negative PCR test, will be allowed to eat there. They will have to scan a QR code issued by the Moscow health authority.
That means all service-sector employees have to get the jab. Anyone who refuses will be fired. Those who take part will be rewarded.
But even these unprecedented measures are a far cry from the tough lockdown the government imposed last year as infections began to rise. Virologists say it’s a case of too little, too late – and that the third wave could be Russia’s most devastating yet.
DW’s Juri Rescheto reports.
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