Putin joins the fight against the pandemic

After a long wait, Vladimir Putin finally announced measures to curb Covid-19 in Russia in a televised address last Wednesday: the whole country will be given a week's holiday on full pay, subsidies will be allocated to the the socially weak and businesses, and the constitutional referendum scheduled for April 22 will be postponed. Is the pandemic now being taken seriously?

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Echo of Moscow (RU) /

Oil is the problem, not the virus

In a Facebook post published by Echo of Moscow rock musician Andrei Makarevich predicts that the Russian leadership will exploit the pandemic to the full:

“I can already see how in the near future all our troubles will be blamed on the coronavirus. And yet we are far from being the country worst affected by it. But has the currency in the affected countries also lost a third of its value, or was it just ours? ... The weak voices of intelligent eggheads had repeatedly appealed to our sun king: don't build the life and prosperity of this great country on oil alone! ... The people up on high don't care how you live. They're not reduced to poverty. They're just worried that you'll lose your patience. But it seems the patience of the Russian people is endless.”

Ria Novosti (RU) /

Balancing on the razor's edge

Writing in Ria Novosti, pediatrician and medical official Leonid Roschal appeals to the Russians to remain calm and maintain a sense of proportion:

“Drugs to control this infection are not yet available. It will lose its aggressiveness of its own accord, and this weakening is also enhanced by the growing immunity of those who are only mildly affected. There will also be a vaccine and mass vaccinations, as is now the case with influenza and other diseases. But we will not see the results of vaccination until at least one to two years after the vaccine has been developed. However, we cannot completely paralyse the whole country for all that time. We must find a calm balance on the razor's edge.”

Echo of Moscow (RU) /

An invitation for the deadly virus

In a blog post for the Echo of Moscow opposition economist Andrey Illarionov considers the announced measures to be counterproductive:

“Not only will the holiday week he has announced not stop the epidemic, it will fuel it even further. It's not holidays we need but a quarantine. And not for a week, but for at least a month. Hundreds of thousands of citizens - if not millions - should be tested. We need tens of thousands of ventilators. ... But Putin has said nothing about that. He hasn't proposed any solution at all to the problem of the Russian epidemic, meaning that he's opening the door to the deadly infection. The price we will have to pay for this inadequate approach will be enormous.”

Postimees (EE) /

Pneumonia and whooping cough - nonsense!

Vikki Perijainen, fact checker at Postimees, is very concerned about the news she's hearing from Russia:

“At a time when the whole world is panicking, the major Russian news media are reacting calmly. But the social media and opposition publications paint a very different picture. ... According to doctors and activists, the statistics on the number of cases are being deliberately doctored. ... Coronavirus infections are being diagnosed as other illnesses, which is why the official number of cases of pneumonia has increased by 37 percent and of whooping cough by 40 percent. ... The undemocratic regime is muzzling doctors and falsifying statistics to avoid international and domestic criticism. Real action comes too late. The same thing happened in China, and now the whole world is suffering.”

Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

The priority is to keep the people calm

Putin was above all trying to prevent an even worse state of emergency, Radio Kommersant FM believes:

“Nothing bad has happened, quite the opposite in fact: instead of quarantine we get a week's holiday. But where can you relax when everything's closed? All we have at home is the TV and alcohol. But that's still better than having the army on the streets - so the thinking seems to be. The message was: Russia is somehow getting along, but we're not alone in the world. The attack is coming from outside. And for that reason, citizens, be reasonable and follow the doctors' instructions. And the constitutional referendum is being postponed indefinitely. That was foreseeable, because it's difficult to lure the electorate to the polls during a pandemic - and that, in turn, could have an impact on the outcome.”