Russia is once again in the grip of a wave of viruses, despite months of assurances from the government of President Vladimir V. Putin that the worst of the pandemic is over. The spiraling outbreak has come as a surprise, even in the words of the top officials behind those assurances.
Russian virologists say that the Delta variant, which was first found in India, is now the most prevalent version in Moscow. The rapidly increasing number of cases put Russia at risk of following the path of other countries like India that appeared to have quelled infections only to see a resurgence.
The outbreak is most pronounced in Moscow, the capital, where the number of cases has tripled in the past two weeks, according to city officials, who have added 5,000 beds to coronavirus wards. Moscow’s health authorities reported 9,056 positive tests on Friday, the highest daily number for the city since the pandemic began.
Russia has reported 125,853 deaths from Covid-19 since the pandemic began, but statistics showing excess mortality over the past year suggest that the actual number is much higher.
Across Russia, only 9.9 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, although last summer Russia claimed to be the first country in the world to approve a vaccine. By comparison, 44 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated.
Cases increased slowly during the spring and then increased this month. And during the winter, little was done to encourage Russians to get vaccinated.
In fact, to avoid stimulating demand late last year, when vaccines were in short supply, Putin delayed his own inoculation until March, although in terms of age he qualified months earlier, the Kremlin press office said. He did not receive it on camera.
Today, skepticism persists even though vaccines are widely available. The Levada Center, a polling agency, surveyed Russian attitudes on vaccination in April and found that 62 percent did not intend to receive a Russian-made vaccine, all of which is available in Russia.