STRATETIC EYE: A column on current Indian, national and global issues
Until Recently, Russians Thought Their Healthcare System Could Cope Easily With Such Challenges
By Dr. Nivedita Das Kundu
The outbreak of the Covid-19 Pandemic in Russia from the middle of March 2020 affected the population with unexpected disruptions in almost all spheres of life and drastically altered the lifestyle of the Russian population. The lockdown announced on March 29, 2020, to contain the infection and slow down the spread of the virus was an extraordinary decision taken by the Russia’s government in post-Soviet history.
The Covid-19 crisis reached Russia when Kremlin was busy in focussing its political decisions to push for the constitutional amendments for allowing Vladimir Putin to stay in power after 2024. However, as the coronavirus cases started increasing, Russian government hurriedly declared lockdown measures and asked citizens to stay at home and maintain physical distancing.
Though Russia’s response to the coronavirus outbreak started much earlier and Russia was quick in deciding to close its borders with China which is around 2,615 km. long.
On 27th January 2020, Russia also created special coronavirus headquarters. However, on 31st January, two Russian regions announced that two Chinese tourists carried the virus, making them the first confirmed cases in Russia. Chinese tourists were temporarily banned from entering Russia from 20th February 2020.
But the closing of borders raised many other related problems and therefore, the border had to partially reopen. Russia rapidly climbed up the global Covid-19 ladder in May 2020, reaching third place globally after the Covid19 case numbers in Brazil overtook Russia, according to data compiled by John Hopkins University.
The Covid-19 affected a huge number of people in Russia and within a short time, this pandemic made Russians change their daily routine. Though Russia has good experience in controlling infectious diseases such as plague and also testing capacity in Russia is quite vast, still, in a short period, the threat of Pandemic became much more dangerous than any other threat. However, the disruptions in normal life became evident as educational institutions were closed, almost all the entire sectors of the economy closed down. Many factors played in the case of Russia’s increase in Covid-19 infections. like in many other countri es, in Russia also the health care sectors faced significant shortages with personal protective equipment (PPE).
Russia’s health care sector workers became more vulnerable due to PPE shortages. Also, the hospitals faced problems due to the shortages of ventilators.
On 11th May, President Putin in his address to the Nation on the pandemic called an end to Russia’s “non-working period”. President Putin mentioned in the televised address to the nation that the pandemic and the lockdown had a strong impact on the economy of Russia and it affected millions of Russians.
Therefore, the pandemic measures that have prevented workers from going to their work formally ended on 12th May in Russia, even though the Covid-19 cases increased considerably. However, many Covid-19 related health restrictions remained in place with a gradual easing to be carried out at different speeds in various regions of the country, depending on local developments.
The Kremlin mentioned that Russian scientists and researchers are working on almost 50 different vaccine projects. A drug called Avifavir received a temporary registration certificate from the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation for treating Covid-19 patients. Health officials registered a second drug for a treatment called Levilimab (trade name Ilsira).
Russian media reports mentioned that at least seven research facilities are working on coronavirus vaccines. Two forms of the vaccine developed by the Moscow based Gamalei National Research Centre for Epidemiology and Microbiology in cooperation with the Russian Defence Ministry are set to begin clinical trials soon. The vaccine in liquid and another in powder form for injections are under the process.
The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown and self-isolation have changed many things around the world and the same happened in Russia as well. People were forced to spend more time in the virtual world. However, people with other diseases began to suffer as Russian health care sectors were focussed more on the Covid-19 patients.
Until recently, Russians could not think that the healthcare system in Russia may not be able to cope-up with such challenges of the pandemic and refused to accept the threat of this new pandemic as a reality.
However, due to the massive influx of patients social support became insufficient and healthcare sectors were overwhelmed. The Covid-19 pandemic has taught Russians that access to health care and medication comes under most essentials for the citizens. There is a need to change the lifestyle, control excessive urbanization, reduce excessive mobility and there is a need to protect the environment. Now is the time to fundamentally restructure societies around the ideals of local self-sufficiency and environmental sustainability.