For the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Russia has recorded more than 1,000 deaths from the disease in just one day. With 1,002 deaths this Saturday (16), the country exposes the difficulties to control Covid amid a vaccination campaign that costs to advance.
In addition to the record deaths, Russians also saw the number of daily cases reach 33,208, the highest number of infections for the fifth consecutive day, according to the country’s task force on the subject.
Officials blame the slow pace of the immunization campaign for both the rise in contamination and the rise in deaths, a panorama that forced Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko to call this week for retired and already immunized doctors to return to work in hospitals.
Russia estimates that 45% of its population has immunity against the virus, either through the application of vaccines or through antibodies generated after recovering from the disease, according to data released on Saturday by the task force. In Moscow, that number would be 61%, and in the region around the capital, 64%.
Although it was one of the first to develop and launch an immunizing agent to fight Covid, the country is still struggling to apply it to the population, as many Russians cite distrust in authorities and fear in relation to new drugs. Another factor that discourages vaccination efforts is that the creation of Sputnik V was an operation surrounded by controversy.
The first news about a Russian vaccine came in May, when Alexander Ginzburg, director of the Gamaleia Institute, responsible for developing the immunizing agent, revealed in an interview with the Russian Ministry of Health that he had tested the drug on himself and other researchers.
The practice, widely condemned in the West, sparked debate. Details came in a trickle: 40 volunteers, half of them from the Armed Forces, began to be tested in June. The so-called phase 1 is over, and the Russians, considering the results satisfactory, jumped straight to phase 3.
Only about 45.7 million of the 144 million Russians, or just over 31% of the population, are fully vaccinated, according to the latest data from the website Our World in Data, linked to Oxford University. Those who took at least one dose of the immunizing agent add up to 50.1 million.
Another factor that contributed to the worsening of the health crisis, the absence of strict restrictions allowed the virus to spread uncontrollably, although several regions have reinstated the obligation of health passports with QR codes to access public places.
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The government, which announced this week that authorities must ensure that “the economy continues to function”, ended up blaming the population’s skepticism towards immunization for the increase in cases and deaths. Dmitri Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, for example, said Putin’s management had done everything possible to give Russians the opportunity to “save their lives by taking the vaccine”.
Now, the total number of deaths officially registered in the country has reached 222,315, and the sum of infections has reached the mark of 7.95 million. Rosstat, the federal statistics service, which maintains an independent tally of deaths by Covid, however, noted this month that about 418,000 deaths were recorded between April 2020 and August this year.
Already the figure of excess deaths in Russia, which some epidemiologists say is the best way to measure the impact of a pandemic, reached 575,000 extra deaths compared to the average death rate in the same period between 2015 and 2019.