The COVID infection rate in Moscow is still growing and is also starting to rise in St Petersburg as well as in the Moscow region, Chris Weafer, the founding partner of Macro-Advisory in Moscow, wrote in a note to investors on June 29, adding that deaths are at a record level and extra hospitals have been opened.
According to Weafer, the continued high infection rate has led to new restrictions in the Russian capital. Indoor visitors to restaurants must show QR codes proving either vaccination or prior infection. From July 12, these restrictions will apply to outdoor dining areas also. Events with more than 500 spectators are banned.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin appear to have distanced themselves from the latest unpopular restrictions, leaving it to the mayors of Russia’s two largest cities to take any flak.
“It is clear that the Kremlin does not want to impose a major lockdown, which would both slow economic recovery and would seriously call into question Putin’s recent claim of victory over the virus,” said Weafer.
Avoiding an official lockdown also means that the state does not have to provide compensation or financial support for affected businesses affected, includng small businesses in the catering and consumer services sectors, which would be the hardest hit by a new lockdown.
Weafer noted that foreigners in Russia have been left in limbo. As of June 28, no provision exists to allow foreigners or Russians with a foreign vaccine to get a QR Code or to otherwise be allowed into restaurants. Instead, they are being forced to get a 72-hour PCR test.
Meanwhile, Russia announced the easing of travel routes to some countries – but others, such as Germany, France and Ireland have placed Russia on their red zone travel lists. Some others, such as Greece, are requiring travelers from Russia to have a negative PCR test before being allowed into the country.
Vaccination at only 12% in Russia
As of July 1, only about 11.4% of Russia’s 145 million-strong population has been vaccinated, with just 14.3% having had at least one dose – numbers that are far behind the US (50%), Israel (57%), and the UK (49%). The compulsory measures for some worker categories, and to enter cafes, etc., that have been imposed in Moscow and St Petersburg will likely be rolled out across the country. Long queues are common for vaccinations in Moscow while vaccination has stopped in some regions because of a lack of doses.
The lockdown has driven new cases to low levels, although there has been an uptick in recent days. The India-origin Delta strain has been identified in Ukraine and measures are being taken, including extra testing of those arriving from India, the UK, Russia, and Portugal. All of Ukraine is in the green zone, but the Kyiv region is likely to be downgraded and the nationwide quarantine system has been extended to the end of August.
The rise in new infections has pushed the whole of the country into the red zone, with five regions, including the capital Nur-Sultan, into the red. In Nur-Sultan, there are new restrictions on the opening hours of malls and restaurants, and limits on the number of visitors allowed. Vaccination is progressing well, with about 9.8% of the population having received two doses (up from 7.3% the previous week), and 16% have received at least one dose, Weafer wrote. New rules require service sector workers and those in firms larger than 20 people to either get vaccinated or have a weekly PCR test.
Central Asia’s most populous nation has seen a surge in the number of new cases. The Delta strain of COVID-19 has been detected in Uzbekistan, which has restricted movement in and out of Tashkent. PCR tests are required for entry into the country and restrictions have been imposed on indoor houses of worship and in restaurants. Vaccinations have been opened to over 18s in Tashkent and to over 50s nationwide. As of late June, about 1 million (3% of the population) have had two doses, numbers that are up from 960,000 earlier in the month.
The peak of the third wave has passed, which is a good result, given that there was a national election last week, but, according to Weafer, Armenia’s authorities are warning of the possibility of a new wave of infections. The current COVID quarantine is in place until July 11.
The third wave has clearly peaked thanks to the Azeri government’s harsh lockdown. The government has relaxed quarantine rules, Weafer, wrote, adding that 11.6% of the population has received two vaccine doses, up from 9.6% the previous week. The government may tighten its rules on infection certification in order to encourage more people to get vaccinated.
New cases in Belarus continue to fall. The Delta variant has been found in Belarus but seems not to be spreading as fast as in Russia. Vaccination numbers are now announced daily, suggesting the availability problems have been resolved. New vaccination points are announced daily. About 5.8% of the population has had both doses, up from 4% last week. 8.9% have received at least one dose.
The third wave has peaked, curfew now starts at midnight (changed from 2300). The government’s mandate to impose regulations was extended from July 1, 2021, to January 1, 2022. Vaccination supplies are still limited, though some citizens are eligible for doses of AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and the Chinese-made SinoVac. All deliveries of the various vaccines are being given immediately and the government hopes to get a series of major deliveries in July that will be enough to vaccinate the entire population by September.