The Irish Times view on Russia’s Covid-19 surge: the cost of hesitancy

Low vaccine take-up is contributing to a deadly third wave

A security officer checks the QR-code of a food court visitor in  Moscowon Monday. In order to contain the spread of Covid-19 infections, Moscow’s authorities imposed a ban on serving people without QR-codes confirming protection against Covid-19, including people who have recovered from Covid-19 within the previous six months or have negative PCR test results. Photograph: Maxim Shipenkov/ EPA

A security officer checks the QR-code of a food court visitor in Moscowon Monday. In order to contain the spread of Covid-19 infections, Moscow’s authorities imposed a ban on serving people without QR-codes confirming protection against Covid-19, including people who have recovered from Covid-19 within the previous six months or have negative PCR test results. Photograph: Maxim Shipenkov/ EPA

Your Web Browser may be out of date. If you are using Internet Explorer 9, 10 or 11 our Audio player will not work properly.
For a better experience use Google Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

 

Months after officials said the country was emerging from the worst of its Covid-19 epidemic, Russia is struggling to deal with record numbers of cases and a rapid rise in hospital admissions and deaths. National authorities reported 669 coronavirus-related deaths on Wednesday, the highest since the pandemic began. They also confirmed 21,042 new cases in the previous 24 hours, more than a quarter of them in Moscow, where cases have tripled in as many weeks.

As in many other countries, the spike has been attributed to the rapid spread of the Delta variant, which now accounts for 89.3 per cent of all cases in the capital, according to mayor Sergei Sobyanin. He has suggested officials overestimated how long natural immunity from previous infection would provide protection.

More obvious explanations are patchy restrictions and a very low take-up of vaccinations. The Kremlin has resisted imposing nationwide measures, leaving it to regional officials to take those unpopular decisions. Restaurants and cafes in Moscow are now allowed to serve only customers who can show a digital QR-code that indicates they have been vaccinated, have recovered from the virus, or have a negative PCR test result.

In Russia as elsewhere, the only route to safety is vaccination, yet even though Russia has ample supplies of four home-grown jabs, the public has been slow to avail of them and polls show most Russians do not want to get inoculated. Only around 10 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated. In an apparent move to encourage people to get the jab, President Vladimir Putin confirmed on Wednesday that he had received the Sputnik V vaccine. He opposes mandatory vaccination, though restrictions on the unvaccinated in Moscow and elsewhere are designed to incentivise take-up.

Russia has suffered terribly from Covid-19. The official death toll stands at 126,000, though excess mortality figures suggest the real number is much higher. Without a rapid rise in vaccination acceptance, it faces a long, traumatic summer.

News Digests

Stay on top of the latest newsSIGN UP HERE
The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.