Russia has seen the highest number of infections and deaths since the onset of the epidemic. It is embarking on a controversial 10-day shutdown in an attempt to defeat the virus.
Scott Simon, Host:
For almost a year, as the corona virus spread to Europe, the United States and elsewhere, Russia’s numbers were less than curious. Well, that has changed. This week, Russian health officials reported the highest rate of infection and death since the onset of the epidemic. And this morning, in an effort to stem the spread of the disease, Russia launched a “quit,” non-work period. Report by Charles Mans of NPR from Moscow.
Charles Mines, Byline: There was a time when President Vladimir Putin took pride in tackling Russia’s corona virus, including the launch of his Sputnik V vaccine. Still, with the number of infections and deaths rising, Putin, clearly disappointed, said last week that he did not understand why the Russians – about two-thirds of them – kept refusing to shoot.
(Sound byte of archived recordings)
President Vladimir Putin: (Non-English is spoken).
Mainz: “I don’t understand what’s going on,” Putin said. “We have a reliable and effective vaccine. I want to emphasize once again that there are only two choices – get sick or get vaccinated.”
Russian officials have recorded the highest number of deaths in Europe, and there is strong evidence that the actual number is much higher than the official figure. Yet it is an unprecedented addition to the delta strain of the virus that the Kremlin has reintroduced, calling it a non-working week while giving regional authorities broad powers to deal with the epidemic as they see fit. let’s see.
For Khaksia, a republic in eastern Siberia, this means a 10pm curfew and a halt to all public transport, even if some locals doubt the effects of the move.
ALEXEI KRICHENKO: (Non-English language is spoken).
Mainz: “There’s not much to do here after 10pm. It’s cold anyway,” says Alexei Krychenko (ph), a freelance journalist in Abakan, the capital city of Khaksia. Filling fast. With skepticism about new restrictions.
Krychenko: (via spokesman) The only people who complain about curfews and buses not working are the ones who never wore masks in the beginning.
Mainz: Back in Moscow, a network of lockdown measures abruptly ended the sense of normalcy that had settled in the capital in recent months. Unvaccinated seniors need to stay indoors, schools are closed and offices have sent workers home. Meanwhile, the city’s restaurants, bars, cafes and movie theaters – which are in the entertainment business – have been ordered closed to consumers.
Anna Alexeva: (Non-English spoken).
Mainz: “Lockdown is hitting us again,” says frustrated Anna Alexeva (ph), who works at a small craft beer bar.
Alexeva: (via spokesperson) If they keep us locked up until the new year, we’re done. This is not Europe or the United States, where they provided at least some funding. The government here doesn’t care about small business at all.
Mines: Moscow theaters and museums are among the few public places still open to visitors, albeit with 50% coverage and proof of vaccination.
Unknown person: (Non-English language is spoken).
Mainz: This includes “Life with a virus”, a new exhibition dedicated to the interaction between humans, pathogens and science for centuries. Tour guides guide visitors through large models of eggs and bacteria. An interactive video game called Pandemic allows players to try to save the city from massive infections. And in the corner, a hologram of the Corona virus, with its now famous spikes, beats against the wall.
Sergei Reikov: (Non-English spoken).
Mainz: Sergei Ryakov (PH), the curator of the exhibition, says he often finds himself watching and meditating.
Rykov: (via spokesman) We don’t want to scare anyone. Our goal is to inform. The more we understand what we are dealing with, the better the chances we have of finding ways to defend ourselves.
Mainz: Rykov noted that the method of exposure is as popular as once suspected health officials who are now seeking to resume Russia’s vaccination efforts. Yet some health experts say Russia’s current COVID problems are at least partly due to the Kremlin’s own propaganda machine.
GEORGII BAZYKIN: (Non-English language is spoken).
Mainz: Georgie Bazkin, a biologist at Moscow’s Skulkov Institute who studied the virus’s epidemics, says state media has foiled conspiracies to question the effectiveness of Western vaccines undermining Russia’s own campaign. Mark
Bazkin: (Non-English language is spoken).
Mainz: “He made a cruel joke about Russia’s vaccination efforts,” says Bazkin. “A country that produces and exports vaccines refuses to take its own citizens.”
Charles Mains, NPR News, Moscow.
NPR transcripts are created on a quick deadline. Verb8tm, Inc., Using an NPR contractor, and a proprietary replication process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. An authentic NPR programming record is an audio record.