(Natural News) Hopes that Russia has successfully contained the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have been dashed as a new surge in cases over the past week has businesses bracing for a reimposition of lockdown measures.
Russia has the world’s fourth-highest number of COVID-19 infections. Government data, however, has shown a steady decrease in new cases since they peaked in mid-May.
That decline encouraged the Kremlin to lift almost all of the quarantine measures it imposed in March. A sharp increase in new infections over the past couple of weeks has raised fears that a new lockdown is necessary.
More than 2,000 new cases were recorded on Sunday in Moscow, almost double the number reported three days earlier. This represents the highest daily increase in cases since early June. The country’s total number of new infections jumped to 7,867, the highest for three months.
Russia currently has over 1,154,000 COVID-19 cases and around 20,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Russians preparing for a possible lockdown
In light of the rising infection rate, Russian companies are taking measures to ensure that they can continue to operate run should a new lockdown be announced.
Sberbank, one of Russia’s largest lenders and its biggest employer, is set to move half of its Moscow workforce to remote work. Meanwhile, X5, the country’s largest food retailer, has ordered 90 percent of its Moscow office employees to start working from home.
The local government is also not taking chances and preparing for a lockdown. Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin has requested that residents over 65 years of age and those with underlying health issues remain at home starting Monday morning. Sobyanin has warned of dire consequences from the coronavirus overlapping with seasonal flu.
In a statement issued on Sept. 25, Sobyanin “earnestly recommend[ed]” that businesses based in the capital “transfer as many employees as possible to remote mode.”
“We all really do not want to return to the harsh restrictions of this spring,” Sobyanin said. “Hopefully we can avoid this. But only if we take care of ourselves and people close to us.”
Even Russian President Vladimir Putin has noted that coronavirus cases were on the rise during a meeting with the governors of several Russian regions on Sept. 24 Thursday.
Second lockdown may not happen due to politics
Despite the increase in cases, Russian authorities deny that Russia is experiencing a second wave of coronavirus infections. Instead, they’ve stated that the current spike is still part of the “continuing development of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic in Russia.”
“The coronavirus pandemic has not gone anywhere, there is no second wave. Epidemic curve, the epidemic process is developing as a continuation of the first wave,” stated Alexandr Gorelov, deputy head of the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing (Rospotrebnadzor).
Rospotrebnadzor’s refusal to identify the surge as a second wave could have to do with how politically sensitive the issue of reimposing lockdowns is.
In June, Putin made the controversial decision to lift national lockdown measures in order to conduct a national referendum on a new constitution that allows him to continue his term as president for an additional 12 years. In addition, lifting the lockdowns also allowed several regional elections to take place earlier this month.
A second wave could be seen as a criticism of Putin’s decision and portray him as sacrificing the nation’s health in favor of prolonging his stay in office.
Instead, the Russian government is now doubling down in its coronavirus vaccine-candidate, known as Sputnik V. On Sept. 9, the authorities started phase III trials of the vaccine. Mass vaccination is expected to begin as soon as October to provide so-called immunity to at least 60 percent of the population to stem the coronavirus’ spread.
In the meantime, several ministers and lawmakers, as well as one of Putin’s own daughters, have received the vaccines.
For more on Russia’s struggle with the coronavirus, follow Pandemic.news.