Russia’s coronavirus epidemic in retreat

Russia’s coronavirus epidemic in retreat
The number of weekly infections in Russia fell below 100,000 for the first time since October last week as the combination of a high infection rate and the start of mass immunisation began to have an effect.
By bne IntelliNews February 24, 2021

As exceptional high infection rates have coupled with the rapid roll-out of the Sputnik V vaccine, Russia’s coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic is now in retreat, with the number of new reported cases and daily mortality rates falling noticeably.

Russia recorded less than 100,000 new weekly coronavirus cases last week for the first time since October. While the situation is improving the pandemic is not over, but the spread of the virus is slowing rapidly.

Between February 15 and 21, the crisis centre reported 92,843 coronavirus cases, compared with 104,602 a week earlier. This is a ratio of 9.1 cases per 100,000 people detected in Russia, another low since October.

Last time Russia registered fewer than 100,000 COVID-19 weekly cases was in the week of October 5-11, 2020.

Since the start of the pandemic, Russia has confirmed 4,164,726 coronavirus cases, 2.85% of the population.

Coronavirus fatalities in Moscow grew by 41 in the past twenty-four hours, the lowest level since October 11, the anti-coronavirus crisis centre reported on February 22.

Overall, 14,782 people have died of the novel coronavirus in Moscow since the start of the pandemic in the Russian capital, the latest data show.

New coronavirus cases in Moscow increased by 1,723 (0.17%) in the past twenty-four hours to a cumulative total of 969,557. A day before, Moscow registered 1,602 new infections.

Russia’s second-largest city, St. Petersburg, registered 996 new COVID-19 cases over the past day, the lowest level since the start of November.

Since the start of the pandemic, the city’s the cumulative COVID-19 case tally has reached 360,650.

In the last 24 hours, some 49 coronavirus patients died in St Petersburg, bringing the total death toll to 10,787. The number of recoveries rose by 2,350, reaching 286,972.

Herd immunity?

One of the factors playing into the falling rates is the very incaution that many Russians had towards the virus, coupled with the start of the inoculation campaign that began in December.

Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin said that half of the population of Moscow has been infected with the virus, which means the official infection count is about a fifth of the actual count, if his estimate is right.

However, that brings the capital close to the 70% infection rate needed for “herd immunity” to kick in. The authorities rolled out a mass inoculation programme in January with free immunisation stations set up around the city. They have also been targeting the groups most at risk as well and say that all the OAPs will be inoculated by the end of February.

Things in some regions are going more slowly, but in many regions the inoculation programme is going as fast as in the capital.

Between 20% and 70% of people in Russian regions have immunity to the novel coronavirus infection, Yevgeny Timakov, chief physician of the Leader of Medicine medical centre and specialist in infectious diseases and vaccines, said last week as cited by TASS.

"20% to 70% of the population, depending on the region, have immunity to the coronavirus infection. But let me repeat once again, this is not enough to control the epidemic process," he said in an interview with the Rosiya-24 television channel.

Timakov also warned that new variants of the virus were more infectious and could be transmitted by people with lower virus loads, "so the next three months will be particularly dangerous for those that have not been infected nor vaccinated.”

Russia is following a global trend where the number of cases of the coronavirus infection worldwide has increased by 2.5mn over the past seven days. According to TASS calculations, this is almost half the number of cases recorded during the first week of 2021.

According to the latest statistics, over 110.3mn people have been infected worldwide and more than 2.4mn deaths have been reported.