Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an order Wednesday to declare the week of October 30 as “non-working,” so workers can stay home and slow the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus.
“The main aim is to protect the lives and health of our citizens,” Putin said when announcing the order.
The Associated Press noted that the week of October 30 already includes four Russian state holidays, so the emergency order is essentially adding three days. Putin mentioned that regions hit especially hard by the coronavirus could start the week off a few days early.
The AP ran down the dire coronavirus situation that led to Putin’s announcement of a special holiday/soft lockdown:
The government task force on Wednesday reported 1,028 coronavirus deaths over the past 24 hours, the highest number since the start of the pandemic. That brought Russia’s total death toll to 226,353 which is by far the highest in Europe.
In some regions, mounting infections forced authorities to suspend medical assistance to the population as health care facilities were forced to focus on treating coronavirus patients.
Russia’s daily coronavirus mortality numbers have been surging for weeks and topped 1,000 for the first time over the weekend amid sluggish vaccination rates, lax public attitudes toward taking precautions and the government’s reluctance to toughen restrictions.
Although Russia claimed to have developed the world’s first vaccine against Chinese coronavirus, the country is only about 32-percent vaccinated, in part because much of the population distrusts the government and its medicines.
In his announcement on Thursday, Putin said Russia’s vaccination levels are “unfortunately” low. He said he was baffled by the level of vaccine hesitancy, even among his “close friends.”
“It’s strange. People with a good education, scientific degrees … I just don’t understand what is happening,” he lamented.
Putin and his spokesman Dmitry Peskov both said Russians who still refuse to get vaccinated are “irresponsible.”
The European Union, on the other hand, released a report on Thursday that said it was Putin’s government that acted irresponsibly by launching a coronavirus disinformation campaign that blew up in Moscow’s face.
The EU study said Russian state media waged a propaganda campaign against Western coronavirus vaccines to build up Sputnik V and other Russian products as superior choices, but it backfired badly and left Russians even more reluctant to get vaccinated.
The Russian public seems resistant to another lockdown, and even Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian government is reluctant to devastate the national economy and provoke public anger by ordering one, so the week off was proposed by the coronavirus task force and its leader, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova.
“Recently, we have been losing more than a thousand of our citizens a day. These are terrible figures,” Golikova said on Thursday, asking Russians to avoid unnecessary travel so the pandemic does not “worsen.”
In Moscow, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin imposed a tougher ten-day lockdown and required unvaccinated people over age 60 to stay home during the week off. Sobyanin also told Moscow businesses to keep at least a third of their employees working from home until January.