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Moscow to begin mass coronavirus vaccinations in weeks

Matt Dunn, a researcher for the Center for Vaccine Research at the University of Pittsburgh, holds dead samples of the coronavirus (COVID-19) at the Biomedical Science Tower 3 in Oakland, Pa. (Nate Guidry, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP/TNS)

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

The mayor of Russia’s capital says the city will begin mass vaccinations against the novel coronavirus disease “in December-January” as he sets to open two more field hospitals to deal with a surge in cases.

Sergei Sobyanin made the announcement in a statement on his website on October 19, without giving details on how the city would go about administering the vaccinations.

In August, Russia approved the Sputnik-V coronavirus vaccine for domestic use — the first country to do so — triggering controversy among the international scientific community amid claims that it was not sufficiently tested. Russian health officials have adamantly backed the vaccine.

Russia has since approved a second vaccine and was expected to begin testing of its third vaccine on October 19.

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The country, which has recorded the world’s fourth-highest coronavirus caseload, with more than 1.4 million infected, is experiencing a second wave of cases, like many countries around the world.

Sobyanin said Moscow, Russia’s largest city with a population of 13 million, will open two more temporary field hospitals to deal with the spike in coronavirus cases.

Hospitalizations in the city have risen by a quarter over the past week to 1,250 a day, stressing the city’s bed capacity.

The coronavirus pandemic in Moscow “remains extremely difficult” and the capital is experiencing “a serious” peak comparable to the spring, Sobyanin said.

The two new field hospitals will be set up inside a building at a local park and at a large shopping center. The facilities will be able to treat a total of 3,500 coronavirus patients at any one time.

Moscow registered 5,376 new cases on October 19, the largest increase since May 12.

The city began experiencing a sharp increase in new cases last month, prompting the city government to open two field hospitals in early October.

The city has also begun stepping up measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

Moscow police are patrolling public transport to ensure people are wearing masks while the government is digitally tracking people visiting bars and clubs for COVID-19 tracing purposes.

The Moscow government has also asked companies operating in the capital to allow as many people as possible to work from home.

However, Sobyanin said he would not introduce a curfew or a ban on movement across the city, and insisted that closing down all businesses was “absolutely unacceptable and impossible for us.”