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COVID-19: New cases in Russia top 10,000 for seventh straight day

This article was originally​ published​ by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission

 

The global death toll from the coronavirus is more than 276,000 with almost 4 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.

Here’s a roundup of COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast regions.

Russia

Russian authorities announced more than 10,000 new coronavirus infections across the country for a seventh straight day on May 9, with the number in Moscow now eclipsing 104,000.

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The 24-hour national rise in SARS-CoV-2 infections reported by the country’s task-force headquarters — by 10,817 to 198,676 — marks a very slight increase on the previous day’s increase despite a stringent lockdown.

Russia’s measures to curb the spread of the pandemic forced officials to cancel parades and other gatherings planned to mark the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany on May 9, although President Vladimir Putin appeared at a solemn wreath-laying and gave a televised speech from Red Square.

Thirty of Russia’s 80-plus regions have registered more than 1,000 cases, according to the national crisis center, with a majority of those infections in the capital.

The anti-coronavirus task force said 104 people had died in the past day, bringing the national death toll to 1,827.

Russia’s relatively low official death toll has spawned criticism that authorities may be covering up the real toll of the outbreak by failing to correctly identify coronavirus deaths as such, accusations that have been rejected by authorities.

Shortages of medical equipment including personal protective equipment for health-care workers is said to be a major problem in many places.

A doctor at an ambulance unit in Russia’s western Voronezh region earlier this month became the third physician who’d spoken out about shortages to fall from a hospital window in the course of several weeks. The first two doctors’ falls proved fatal.

Officials said on May 9 that Moscow’s day-to-day increase was 5,667 infections, to 104,189.

Mayor Sergei Sobyanin recently estimated that some 2-2.5 percent of the capital’s residents were currently infected, according to Interfax, but it was unclear where that figure came from as testing is still said to be sorely lacking.

Moscow announced on May 7 that a citywide lockdown would be extended until the end of the month as new cases continued to rise.

Deputy Mayor Anastasia Rakova said on May 8 that city residents will be required to wear masks in public places starting May 12 and residents not wearing masks inside public transport will be fined 5,000 rubles ($68).

Shortages of medical equipment including personal protective equipment for health-care workers is said to be a major problem in many parts of Russia, although the lion’s share of COVID-19 cases reported so far are in the capital.

Russian activists have warned that the roughly 875,000 people held in the nation’s overcrowded prisons and pretrial detention facilities — and the hundreds of thousands of people who work in them — could be in particular danger from the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, Russian news reports said a fire broke out at a Moscow hospital where coronavirus patients were being treated, and at least one person was killed.

The TASS and RIA-Novosti news agencies said the blaze broke out around 8.30 p.m. on May 9 at the facility in northwestern Moscow.

The Emergency Situations Ministry told the news agencies that some patients who had been confined to beds were being evacuated.

The fire was later extinguished, reports said.

The hospital, called Spasokukotsky, is one of several in the Russian capital that has wards specially designated to treat coronavirus patients.

Kyrgyzstan

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says its board has approved an additional $121.1 million in emergency assistance to Kyrgyzstan to meet urgent needs stemming from the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The emergency assistance was approved by the IMF’s Executive Board on May 8, the IMF said in a news release.

The IMF emergency support will finance health and economic relief and help shore up confidence in the government of the nation of 6.2 million people.

“The outbreak of the pandemic has weakened the macroeconomic outlook and opened a balance of payments gap estimated at about $500 million,” the IMF said.

But the international lender said there is an “unprecedented high level of uncertainty surrounding this projection.”

The disbursement announced May 8 brings the total IMF emergency assistance to the Kyrgyz Republic to address the COVID-19 pandemic to $242 million.

Tao Zhang, deputy managing director of the IMF, said “expeditious additional donor support” is needed to make up the difference between the estimated $500 million balance of payments gap and the $242 million the IMF has supplied.

The previously approved $120.9-million disbursement came just days after Kyrgyzstan’s declaration on March 24 of a state of emergency in the capital, Bishkek, and several other regions and districts in response to the spread of the coronavirus.

To ensure that the loan is efficiently spent on addressing the crisis, Kyrgyz authorities have committed to strengthen procurement rules, the IMF said.