Russian Covid Cases Surge Over 10,000 for First Time Since March

New cases of Covid-19 in Russia surged over 10,000 on Wednesday to the highest in more than three months as widespread skepticism toward domestically-developed vaccines undermines attempts to corral the pandemic.

The growing number of cases in Russia is unusual among countries that offer adults universal access to a vaccine, and belie official statements that the situation is nothing to worry about.

“Our situation is better than in many other countries,” President Vladimir Putin told 5,000 in-person attendees at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum last week. “The current situation in Russia and St Petersburg allows us to hold such events without any particular risk of spreading the infection.”

Russia’s seven-day average of new infections is at the highest since March 22. There were 10,407 cases announced Wednesday, down from a peak of nearly 30,000 a day in late December.

The trend was most pronounced in Moscow, Russia’s capital and the city hardest hit by the pandemic. It had 4,124 new cases, the most since mid-January.

After a lockdown at the start of the pandemic last year, Kremlin has resisted strict measures to prevent Covid-19’s spread in favor of policies aimed at keeping the economy open for business. The approach helped Russian growth outperform forecasts at a cost of one of the highest death tolls globally.

Russia has had over 270,000 deaths linked to Covid-19 through April, according to the Federal Statistics Service.

While Putin announced universal, free access to Russia’s inoculations in January, and later declared that he’d been vaccinated, the campaign is proceeding slowly amid public suspicion of the shots.

A total of 15 million people have been vaccinated in Russia and another 3 million have had only the first shot since the effort began early this year, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said Friday. About 12% of the population have received at least one dose, or less than the percentage of inoculated people in India, which has faced widespread shortages of the vaccine.

Putin ordered the government to develop a plan to offer vaccine tourism by the end of the month saying Russia had enough doses to share. The country earlier faced supply issues as it struggled to ramp up production of the vaccine.

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