“The majority of ICU patients in grave condition are unvaccinated,” he told The Associated Press. These illnesses “could have been very easily avoided if a person had been vaccinated.” With a record 1,015 fatalities reported Tuesday, the country’s death toll is now 225,325 — by far the highest in Europe, even though most experts agree even that figure is an undercount.
He simply looks around his filled-to-capacity intensive care unit at Moscow’s Hospital No. 52. With only about a third of Russia’s 146 million people vaccinated against COVID-19, the country has hovered near 1,000 reported deaths per day for weeks and surpassed it on Saturday — a situation that Arbolishvili says “causes despair.” Those statistics “are directly linked to vaccinations,” Arbolishvili said. “The countries with a high share of those vaccinated don’t have such bad mortality numbers.”
Even though vaccines are plentiful, Russians have shown hesitancy and skepticism when it comes to getting vaccinated, which has been blamed on conflicting signals sent by authorities since the pandemic began last year. Even as ICUs have filled in recent weeks, life in Moscow has continued as usual, with restaurants and movie theaters brimming with people, crowds swarming nightclubs and karaoke bars and commuters widely ignoring mask mandates on public transportation.
That makes medical workers like Dr. Natavan Ibragimova shudder. “I think about sleepless nights when we get a huge number of patients who didn’t even bother to use banal protective means,” the internist at Hospital No. 52 said. Patients who have gotten the vaccine usually don’t have serious symptoms, Ibragimova added, while the unvaccinated come to regret it.
“Patients who survive after a grave course of illness tell us when they are discharged, ‘Doctor, you were right and I will tell everyone that it’s necessary to get the vaccine,’” she said. Until now, the Kremlin has ruled out a new nationwide lockdown like the one imposed early in the pandemic that dealt a heavy blow to the economy and sapped President Vladimir Putin’s popularity. The surging infections have raised the pressure on Russia’s health care system and prompted Cabinet officials to suggest that most public sector workers take a week off. Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, who heads the coronavirus task force, suggested Tuesday that such a nonworking period start Oct. 30 and last through the following week, when four of seven days already are state holidays. The Cabinet will ask Putin to authorize the move, which would still keep many businesses in the service sector open.
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