Russia Passes 1 Million Covid-19 Cases as Schools Reopen

Russia became the fourth country to pass 1 million confirmed cases of Covid-19, joining the U.S., India and Brazil, on the day schools across the country reopened for the new academic year.

The government’s virus response center reported 4,729 new coronavirus infections Tuesday, bringing the total to 1,000,048. The number of new daily cases has gradually declined from a peak of more than 11,000 in May.

“The situation has stabilized in Russia,” Anna Popova, the head of Russia’s public health regulator, said Monday evening on state-run Rossiya-1 television. “The decrease continues to an extent, but today we are seeing several hot spots, or outbreaks.”

The death toll increased by 123 to 17,299, a mortality rate that remains much lower than that of many other large nations. The number of fatalities is also significantly below those reported by the Federal Statistics Service, which said there were nearly 25,000 Covid-19 related deaths in May and June alone, the most recent data available.

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While a strict nationwide lockdown in the spring helped tame the initial surge, new infections have remained stubbornly high and averaged more than 5,000 per day in August. Several countries in Europe are now facing a second wave of the epidemic, raising concerns that Russia could see a spike in infections as schools reopen.

“I was at two schools today and noticed that people have decided not to wear masks at all,” Sergey Netesov, a former executive at Vector, a state-run virology center in Novosibirsk, said by phone. “This could lead to a second wave. Daily growth is flat now after what had been a downward trajectory.”

Officials have been more optimistic about containing Covid-19 as Russia prepares to start the first mass shipments of a vaccine this month that was approved for use before fully completing testing. The vaccine, developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute and the Russian Direct Investment Fund, together with the Defense Ministry, is currently undergoing Phase 3 trials to determine whether it is safe and effective.

Russia’s economy may shrink by about 4% this year, with employment expected to recover to pre-crisis level in 2021, RIA Novosti reported Monday, citing Kremlin economic aide Maxim Oreshkin. Previously, the Economy Ministry forecast a 5% contraction.

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