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Russia’s Covid rate drops as Central Asia faces new pandemic challenges

EPA-EFE/SERGEI ILNITSKY
A Russian medical worker displays a trial vaccine against COVID-19 in a post-registration phase of the test at outpatient hospital number 68 in Moscow, Russia, 17 September 2020.

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The worst of the third wave of COVID-19 pandemic appears to be over, especially in Moscow, where new infections and hospitalizations are well below their peaks, Chris Weafer, the CEO and General Director of Macro-Advisory in Moscow, wrote in an emailed note on August 3.

“Moscow abolished the compulsory use of gloves in transport, stores and public places. However, most people ignored the requirement to use gloves months ago and there has been no enforcement,” Weafer wrote, adding that the use of masks in places like the metro and on city buses, as well as in some indoor venues, remains mandatory, although also with weak enforcement.

From July 30, St Petersburg allowed food-courts and outdoor attractions to resume. There are, however, multiple conditions that need to be met in order to operate.

“The news flow is expected to be light in the coming weeks. Partly because the trend is moving in the right direction (down slowly) and partly because August is the main holiday month in Russia. This year, the Administration will also be eager to control the news, especially any bad news, away from the main media outlets as they will not want this to be an issue leading up to the September 19th Duma elections,” Weafer wrote.

The Russian government has given the go-ahead for trials of the Sputnik Lite and AstraZeneca vaccines, which may address second dose shortages for Sputnik.

According to the Macro Advisory CEO, vaccination rates remain very low in Russia, with only about 17.5% of the population having been fully vaccinated and roughly 25.2% having had at least one jab.

A survey of Russian doctors showed that 36% would choose Sputnik, 23% Kovivak, 14% would not get vaccinated, and 11% would choose Pfizer. Typically, Russian doctors prefer foreign products.

Chechnya was the first Russian region to report that 100% of the adult population had been vaccinated. Reports from Chechnya, however, must be taken with a high degree of skepticism, due to the Muslim region’s mercurial leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, and his penchant for unreliable and often fantastical public proclamations.

Kazakhstan

New infections continue to soar. Deaths are also high with the first days of more than 100 dying. The whole country is a red quarantine zone. From August 2, vaccination will be required to go to work in the five largest cities and companies not in the Ashyq system will have to close. In addition, all mass events, whether entertainment or family, are prohibited. There is talk of using hotels and hostels as COVID hospitals. Vaccinations are progressing well, with about 20% of the population having received two doses (up from 17% the previous week), and 29% have received at least one dose.

Uzbekistan

In Uzbekistan, new cases continue to rise. The Uzbek parliament passed a law in late July legalizing the suspension of workers who refuse to get vaccinated. The government has received 3 million doses of the Moderna vaccine and the first doses of Sputnik were produced in Uzbekistan late last month.

Ukraine

Ukraine has been able to implement a successful lockdown policy, but new cases ticked up again this week and there are now entry rules from August 5 to protect Ukraine against the delta strain. Some 4.9% of the population have had two doses of vaccine, up from 3.8% in late July, and 8.7% have had at least one dose. Vaccination is mainly limited by availability, but the rate seems to be increasing.

Armenia

The uptick in new cases continues. The country’s national quarantine has been extended until December 21 and the government has said that it is preparing new restrictions for August, as well as vaccine incentives. Vaccination is running at about 5,000 per day, which is slower than the authorities would like.

Azerbaijan

There was a jump in new cases last week. This was likely due to the relaxation of quarantine rules. The delta strain may also be appearing, from either Turkey or Russia, Weafer wrote, adding that new rules last week require most of the working population to be vaccinated by September 1st. 20.4% of the population has received two vaccine doses, up from 18.8% the previous week.

Belarus

New cases in Belarus are at a higher plateau, which may be caused by the delta variant, but there hasn’t been the same significant jump in cases from delta as were seen in Russia or Kazakhstan. About 10.2% of the population has had both doses, up from 8.5% last week. 14.7% have received at least one dose.

Georgia

The sharp rise in new cases is due to the delta strain, Weafer wrote, adding that about 5,000 of the potential 7-8,000 Covid beds are full. There are likely to be new border restrictions, but not a new lockdown, in Georgia in the coming weeks. Vaccination has been limited by supplies, with only about 12.7% of the population have had one dose.

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Co-founder / Director of Energy & Climate Policy and Security at NE Global Media

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