Russia struggles against third wave of coronavirus pandemic

Saturday 26/June/2021 06:47 AM
By: DW
Russia struggles against third wave of coronavirus pandemic
Russia is facing a sharp uptick in Covid-19 infections

Moscow: Doctors and officials in the Russian cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg are now openly talking about a third wave of coronavirus infections. Tighter restrictions are being introduced in several regions of the country,vaccination is being made mandatory, and some hospitals are once again being equipped to exclusively handle COVID-19 patients.

Denis Protsenko, the chief physician at Moscow's main hospital for COVID-19 patients, told Russian media that he believes the third wave, which has now engulfed Moscow and St. Petersburg, would reach other regions of Russia by July. He said there were more than 400 patients in the intensive care unit at his hospital, and 200 people were arriving for treatment every day.

"That's more than on peak days during the first two waves," Protsenko said. "We've really taken it far too easy when it comes to attitudes toward wearing masks and maintaining social distancing — basically, everything that we did for a whole year." He said people had grown weary of precautionary measures. That combination triggered this third wave, he said.

Though patients' symptoms haven't changed significantly from the previous waves, Protsenko said, doctors are noticing a shorter incubation period for the virus, with initial symptoms appearing four to five days after infection on average, and not seven to nine days as seen previously. He also said patients were not responding as well to treatments that had proved successful during the two previous waves. Doctors at the Moscow hospital have not yet found out the exact reason for this, Protsenko said.

Doctor: 'Get vaccinated'

Doctors from St. Petersburg have also confirmed a third wave of coronavirus infections. "We expect to reach peaks in the number of cases in July, just as last winter — and even exceed them," Mikhail Cherkashin, the deputy chief physician at the MIBS hospital in St. Petersburg, told DW. The medical institute is already treating more patients than it had in spring 2020, said Cherkashin, who is in charge of the computer tomography center during the pandemic.

"We had time to prepare," Cherkashin said. "Now we are again equipping the hospitals, which had already returned to their regular operations in the spring. It's hard to predict what will happen." Cherkashin said doctors had optimism that the number of infections would decrease by the autumn.

Cherkashin said doctors were not overly concerned about the delta variant of the coronavirus. Though it appears to be more contagious, it has not generally lead to a more severe course of COVID-19. "My most important recommendation is to get vaccinated," Cherkashin said. "Unfortunately, the vaccination campaign in Russia is still going too slowly and poorly, which is why mandatory vaccination is being introduced in a number of regions. In addition, of course, you should wear protective masks, wash your hands and avoid crowds."