Russia’s capital Moscow on Saturday reported a pandemic high for new coronavirus cases for the second straight day, while Saint Petersburg introduced fresh restrictions ahead of its Euro 2020 matches.
Brazil’s death toll from the pandemic meanwhile passed the half-million mark on Saturday.
Moscow’s hospitals were flooded with new patients due to the Delta variant, registering 9,120 new coronavirus infections in 24 hours, according to government figures. That made it a second consecutive high, topping the previous day’s total of 9,056 cases.
Those figures have ballooned from just 3,000 daily two weeks ago, with Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin saying the highly infectious Delta variant first identified in India represented nearly 90 percent of new cases.
The new wave of infections came as Russia’s second city of Saint Petersburg, the country’s worst COVID hotspot after Moscow, is slated to host several Euro 2020 matches—including a quarter-final on July 2. They are expected to draw thousands of European football fans.
Officials are now rushing to reintroduce pandemic restrictions and roll out new beds dedicated to coronavirus patients.
On Saturday, Saint Petersburg announced it would restrict access to its main Euro 2020 fan zone on Konyushenaya Square to 3,000 people, down from 5,000, having earlier banned food sales in the fan zones.
Measures have been more drastic in Moscow, where Sobyanin on Friday shut down the city’s fan zone, banned gatherings of more than 1,000, suspended all mass entertainment events and closed dance halls.
In Brazil, meanwhile, Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga tweeted: “500,000 lives lost due to the pandemic that affects our Brazil and the world.”
He did not give the death toll from the past 24 hours, but as of Friday, the ministry had recorded 498,499 deaths, with a daily average of more than 2,000 over the last seven days.
The pandemic is also casting a shadow over the Tokyo Olympics which will start in just over a month.
The Japanese capital’s governor said Saturday the city would cancel all public viewing events.
Rather than set up six planned viewing sites, “we will make greater use of the web to create exciting atmospheres for the Games,” Yuriko Koike said.
The faster-spreading Delta variant is a top concern in many countries
Fears over the rapid spread of the variant prompted the airport in the southern Chinese city Shenzhen to cancel hundreds of flights and tighten entry controls Saturday, after a single restaurant employee tested positive.
Anyone entering the facility must show a negative virus test from the last 48 hours, Shenzhen Airport Group said in a statement on its official WeChat social media account.
In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni announced new restrictions, including the suspension of inland travel and an extended overnight curfew, as “the hospitals are full”.
“The rapid surge in the intensity of the pandemic appears unprecedented, but still manageable” with curbs similar to those employed at the beginning of the outbreak, Museveni added.
In Russia, Moscow mayor Sobyanin extended closures announced last weekend of food halls in public spaces like malls, as well as overnight shuttering of bars and restaurants.
The city has also ordered mandatory vaccination for residents working in the service industry, saying some 60 percent would have to be fully inoculated by August 15.
Saint Petersburg has announced it will try to vaccinate 65 percent of its civil servants by August 15.
Although free jabs have been available to Russians since December, just 19.5 million out of a population of some 146 million have received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to the Gogov website which tallies COVID figures from the regions and the media.
In Moscow, only 1.5 million of the capital’s roughly 12 million people have been fully vaccinated.
A recent independent survey found that 60 percent of Russians do not intend to be vaccinated.
Russia is among the countries hit hardest by the pandemic, with the sixth-highest number of cases in the world, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.
It overtook Britain on Thursday as the European country having suffered the most COVID deaths, reaching 128,911 by Saturday. Kremlin critics argue the real figure is far higher due to undercounting by authorities.
On June 18, Moscow confirmed a record number of coronavirus cases per day for the entire pandemic – 9056 people. In Russia, during this period, 17,262 people fell ill. According to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, mortality is also growing – by 14% over the past two days. An Indian strain was identified in 89.3% of those infected in the capital, which turned out to be many times more aggressive, Sergei Sobyanin said.According to him, only a quarter of the capital’s residents are immune to this mutated virus.
Part of the restrictive measures introduced from June 15, at the direction of the mayor of Moscow, has been extended until June 29, and from June 19 it is planned to start an experiment with “kiteless restaurants”, the entrance to which will be allowed only to those vaccinated by the QR code.
The introduction of a lockdown could stop the spread of coronavirus infection, but this approach will have a negative impact on the economy, therefore, in the current situation, it is better to focus on total vaccination, according to experts interviewed by Izvestia.
Two days ago, on June 16, 13 397 cases of coronavirus infection were recorded in Russia, and 5782 infected were counted in the capital. The next day, the number of cases in the country increased by another 660 people, in Moscow – by 413.
And already on Friday, June 18, a sharp jump was recorded: coronavirus infection was confirmed in 17,262 Russians, more than half of them – 9,056 – residents of the capital. There has not been such a high indicator in Moscow for the entire time of the pandemic. Previously, the peak of the spread of COVID-19 in the capital in one day was considered December 24, 2020, when 8203 cases were detected.
The vast majority have an Indian strain, Sergei Sobyanin said in an interview with Channel One. According to him, 89.3% of cases have recently become infected with it.
– The so-called “Delta” – this is an Indian strain – turned out to be more aggressive, it spreads faster. To counter this mutation, the number of antibodies in a person must be almost twice as high as to protect against the Wuhan virus.
That is why we see such an explosive growth in morbidity, a large, simply huge increase in hospital admissions. We are introducing new hospitals almost every day, new buildings in the fight against COVID-19 and we barely have time , ” the Moscow Mayor explained, noting that only 25% of residents have immunity to the Indian strain.
The death rate in Russia, which has been declining since December last year, has begun to rise sharply, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said at a June 18 briefing.
– In the last two days, we have recorded a rise in mortality by 14%. If before that we have recorded a decrease in mortality rates for the entire period, starting from December last year, right up to the last days, in the last two days, unfortunately, and I want to repeat this again, this is an increase in fatal outcomes , ” she cited the data, calling on follow the safety measures recommended by Rospotrebnadzor and be sure to vaccinate.
In Moscow, according to the Department of Health, 17 thousand covid beds have already been deployed, and in the coming days their number will reach 20 thousand.
The rapid spread of infection is forcing the city authorities to introduce new protective measures along with the existing ones. The non-working days announced in Moscow from June 15 to June 20 will not be extended. But the restrictions on catering introduced in the city were extended until June 29. Until this time, zoos, food courts and children’s playrooms will also not work, and the number of visitors to entertainment events was limited to 1 thousand people. The Ministry of Culture of Russia will introduce a 50% occupancy rate at events in subordinate institutions until June 29.
In addition, on June 19, the capital will begin an experiment of “kinematic restaurants”. According to Sergei Sobyanin, a dozen and a half catering establishments will participate in it. Only vaccinated people will be allowed to enter these establishments using the QR code downloaded from the government services website . If this technology is successful, it will be replicated throughout the city, added the mayor of the capital.
At the moment, according to Igor Bukharov, President of the Federation of Restaurateurs and Hoteliers of Russia, there is not a single restaurant in Moscow that is ready to accept only vaccinated customers.
– When the required number of workers is vaccinated (at least 60%), then the restaurants will decide whether to participate in the experiment or not. Those who decide to participate will submit an application to the mayor’s office, then the city authorities will check all employees and will ensure that customers visit the restaurant only using the QR code , ”Igor Bukharov explained to Izvestia.
But, according to him, this will not happen tomorrow. It takes time to vaccinate the entire staff.
“In addition, a large number of migrants work for us, and they will be vaccinated only from the first week of July,” said the source of Izvestia.
At the same time, he stressed that total vaccination is preferable to the introduction of a new lockdown – the latter will turn into a disaster for restaurateurs.
A lockdown could have saved from the spread of coronavirus infection, says the head of the department of the Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology of the N. Gamaleya Center, Professor Alexander Butenko.
– The connection between lockdown and a decrease in the number of cases is quite clear. Last year, in the spring, this measure led to excellent results, thanks to which in the summer there was relative prosperity, which lasted until August, ” the virologist recalled.
However, he admits that the lockdown is seriously hitting the economy, and the regional authorities have to strike a balance: introduce restrictive measures, but not go to the extreme – complete quarantine.
In his opinion, the increase in the number of cases is associated with a low level of vaccination and the fact that people stopped wearing masks and taking precautions.
– Compulsory vaccination is a very correct measure against the background of inertia of citizens who neither want to wear masks, nor be vaccinated, – said Alexander Butenko.
The expert recalled that not all people can be vaccinated without first consulting doctors.
– For example, people who are allergic to pollen, strawberries, chocolate or to some chemicals can have a very strong reaction to the vaccine, up to anaphylactic shock. You have to be very careful with this group, ”he explained.
The Indian strain is more contagious, that is, it infects more people, said Vladislav Zhemchugov, an immunologist, doctor of medical sciences, a specialist in especially dangerous infections.
“ If a person who picks up the Wuhan variant of the coronavirus infects on average two to three people, then in the case of the Indian strain, the infection is transmitted to six to eight people ,” the Izvestia source explained.
According to him, the main question now is whether the domestic vaccine acts on the Indian mutation.
– When these data are published, then very strong grounds will appear under the calls for vaccination and no one will refuse, and the process must be accelerated by all means in order to extinguish this outbreak as soon as possible, to form a powerful immune layer, Vladislav Zhemchugov is convinced.
For those people who now have no antibodies left after being vaccinated with two components of Sputnik V, the specialist recommends revaccination. A single injection of any vaccine is enough – for example, Sputnik Light or KoviVak will do well, ”added the immunologist.
On the one hand, the third vaccination will not harm, on the other hand, it is an additional burden on the immune system, especially for those who have contraindications, warns Alexander Butenko. The virologist recommends, before revaccination, to consult with an immunologist and donate blood for antibodies.