Reportage. 'If it’s not possible to slow down economic life even a little bit, this means that the situation is serious and the government is feeling a social anger that is brooding under the ashes,' says sociologist Sergey Uznikov.

Russians react to Putin’s ‘no lockdown’ with fear and anger

Putin has solemnly promised that there will be no lockdown in this second wave of Covid-19.

This promise sounded like music to the ears of all the small traders who had managed to reopen after the spring’s disaster, but resonated as a threat to the millions of workers who must face traveling to work every day on crowded public transport. Restaurants, cinemas and theaters remain open in Moscow. Saturday, the game Spartak-Rostov, in the 13th round of the Russian top soccer league, was played with spectators. However, people are afraid.

“If it’s not possible to slow down economic life even a little bit, this means that the situation is serious and the government is feeling a social anger that is brooding under the ashes,” sociologist Sergey Uznikov told us. In the capital, four field hospitals have been set up to house thousands of newly infected people. The number of new patients is high (there are around 17,000 infected daily), but above all, the number of deaths is terrifying, constantly above 300 per day. The situation appears particularly difficult in the provinces. In some places, the hospitals have practically run out of beds in the infectious wards.

According to Kommersant, 90% of the beds are already occupied in the regions of Voronez, Magadan, Oryol, Primorsky and Buriazia. In Belgorod, Tyumen and Samara, the numbers are close to this threshold, and over the last few days, in the Ulyanovsk region and in Sevastopol, the infected have been told to stay at home due to a lack of beds in the hospitals. Despite these facts, only St. Petersburg has imposed a curfew on the catering and nightlife sector. According to Natalya Zubarevic, professor of Economics at Moscow University, “there are already enormous problems with employment, as the unemployment rate in Moscow has increased sevenfold. It is clear that the service sector would not be able to handle a new quarantine.”

In his denial of the need for lockdowns, Putin hid behind all the alleged “medicines, drugs and vaccines that are appearing,” but in reality, very little is rosy on that front.

We asked Alexander Gorelov, one of the most important Russian epidemiologists, and he was far from optimistic: “We think that the peak will be reached in the first ten days of November. Thus, the number of new daily infections will stabilize, but we are not talking about a decrease, because we will have a new phase in which the epidemiological process will stabilize but the virus will continue to spread. The decline will most likely occur around February-March.”

According to the professor, the holidays will play a negative role, because they will push many people to go to shopping malls and restaurants, to move and to crowd together.

We asked him how long we will have to wait for a vaccine: “There is no point to delude ourselves: there will be no mass vaccinations against the coronavirus in this country. There is no alternative right now to restrictive health measures. For the virus to stop circulating, the population must develop the right level of immunity. It will be possible to think about stopping the spread of the infection only when the collective immunity will reach the level of 60-70%. The solution would be mandatory vaccination. Until we introduce routine vaccination, we will not be able to stop the process,” the expert told us.

However, the implementation of such a program would be difficult even for an obedient people like the Russians. According to a recent survey, only 23% of Russian citizens say they are willing to be vaccinated.

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