Russia becomes the 5th European country most affected by COVID-19

Russia became on Wednesday the fifth country in Europe most affected by the new coronavirus, registering some 10 000 additional cases for the fourth consecutive day, at a time when the authorities want to think about a deconfinement.

According to official figures, 10 559 new cases were recorded during last 24 hours, to reach 165 929. Russia doubles Germany to become the 5th most affected country in Europe and the 6th in the world in number of contaminations, according to an AFP count.

But with 1537 dead, the death rate remains low compared to Italy, Spain, France, Great Britain, the United States and even the Germany.

The authorities indicate that this is due to a series of measures taken early to counter the epidemic: the closing of the borders, more than four million screening tests carried out, the preparation of hospitals for the pandemic, in particular to Moscow, the main focus.

Some critical voices nevertheless doubt the reality of these figures.

Falling poutine

The surge in the number of new cases, in particular in Moscow, which accounts for more than half of the infections in Russia, also places the authorities in a difficult situation, the country having still not reached its epidemic peak.

The economy has suffered from containment measures imposed since the end of March. SMEs and millions of Russians have thus lost income despite the authorities' promise to support businesses and employees.

In this context, President Vladimir Putin saw his popularity drop by 4 points between March and April and by 10 points since January , to settle at 59%, according to the Levada Institute's monthly barometer.

M. Putin is to hold a video conference on Wednesday to discuss a possible gradual lifting of restrictions in certain Russian regions from 12 and an extension or hardening in others.

The head of government Mikhaïl Michoustine, who tested positive for coronavirus last week, will not be present.

If the Russian president assured to understand “the physical and psychological fatigue” of the Russians due to confinement, he stressed that the epidemiological situation would take precedence in the decision to lighten the measures in force.

If people do not respect confinement, especially due to the good weather, “we may have to tighten” the restrictions, warned Sunday the head of the Russian Health Agency (Rospotrebnadzor), Anna Popova, in an interview on Russian television.

Masks and hospitals

In Moscow, epicenter of the disease with 85 973 reported cases and 866 death, surgical masks and disposable gloves have been sold since Tuesday in metro stations.

The municipal authorities are planning to make the mask compulsory in public transport, while up to three million people have a pass allowing them to circulate in the megalopolis and go to work.

Also in the Russian capital, where a million screening tests have been carried out to date, until 27 000 beds for patients with COVID disease – 19 must be available in May .

To this end, temporary hospitals are being built, one of them in the famous exhibition center at VDNKh, in the north of Moscow.

In the region surrounding the capital, wearing a mask on public transport, shops and taxis will become compulsory on 12 May , announced the regional governor.