Russia warns of strain on doctors, as coronavirus spreads

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Nov 02 2021 02:00 AM

People walk near the St. Basil's Cathedral and Red Square, after new measures were imposed by local authorities to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease in central Moscow November 1, 2021. Evgenia Novozhenina, Reuters
People walk near the St. Basil's Cathedral and Red Square, after new measures were imposed by local authorities to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease in central Moscow November 1, 2021. Evgenia Novozhenina, Reuters

Russian authorities said Monday that doctors were under "extraordinary" strain due to surging coronavirus cases in Europe's worst-hit country, with Moscow shuttered during a nationwide holiday to curb infections.

The capital was quiet on the first morning of the working week, with businesses mostly closed and non-essential services in the capital halted from October 28 to November 7.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that doctors working in red zones were facing "extreme physical and emotional stress" with the recent rise in cases.

"Of course the situation is not straightforward. Beds are filled to a large extent, and these days the situation is not becoming easier," Peskov said.

"This is an excessive and extraordinary burden on our doctors, who are demonstrating heroism with what is happening," he added.

Russia is one of the worst-hit countries in the world and a devastating wave this autumn has seen infections and deaths reach new records, with more than 1,000 fatalities per day.

A government tally recorded 40,402 new infections and 1,155 deaths on Monday, figures that in both cases were just shy of records set over recent days.

Although Russia has rolled out several homegrown vaccines, including Sputnik V, only about a third of the population is fully inocculated.

"The best way to protect yourself is to get vaccinated -- and then to get revaccinated on time," said President Vladimir Putin, speaking during a televised government meeting Monday.

The head of Russia's Rospotrebnadzor national health agency, Anna Popova, urged citizens to "make use of the holiday period" to get themselves their injection.

The effects of the special measures the authorities were now taking would take time to be felt, she added.

The Kremlin said last week it hoped the paid holiday period would help stabilize Russia's outbreak. It also warned people against traveling after surveys showed some 30 percent of Russians intended to travel.

Ex-president and former prime minister Dmitry Medvedev warned in the Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily Monday there were was an urgent need to increase vaccination rates.

"If we do not find ways to convince people of their irresponsibility, even, to put it bluntly, their anti-social behavior, we will face even more difficult times," he said.

Authorities have been accused of downplaying the pandemic, and figures from statistics agency Rosstat last week showed nearly twice as many Covid deaths compared with the government tally.

Rosstat said 44,265 people died of coronavirus in September -- nearly double the official government figure -- bringing the agency's total virus toll to nearly 450,000, the highest in Europe. 

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