Coronavirus Pandemic Cases Continue To Spike In Russia
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Let's turn now to Russia, where there has been a spike in coronavirus infections. For the third consecutive day, Russia saw more than 10,000 new cases. NPR's Charles Maynes is in Moscow.
CHARLES MAYNES, BYLINE: The continued surge comes as warmer spring weather and the annual May holidays are challenging authorities' efforts to enforce a lockdown.
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PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: (Speaking Russian).
MAYNES: President Vladimir Putin extended a non-work period through May 11, when authorities had been projecting the outbreak's peak would be followed by a phased opening of the economy. But amid the latest rising numbers, Kremlin officials now appear to be hedging on both those bets.
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TATIANA POPOVA: (Speaking Russian).
MAYNES: Speaking on the state Russia-24 channel, the head of the country's coronavirus task force, Tatiana Popova (ph), said current lockdown restrictions could be extended well into the summer if Russians don't abide by government stay-at-home rules and social distancing measures. But we're on the right path, assured Popova.
In fact, the recent spike in infections may be a consequence of government missteps. Specifically, critics point fingers at Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin and problems with the rollout of his digital pass program that allowed some limited movement around the city a little over two weeks ago. The move caused huge traffic pileups after police began checking for the passes by hand.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Russian).
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking Russian).
MAYNES: Which also brought long lines and crowding around Moscow metro stations.
MAYNES: Doctors like Alexander Vanyukov (ph) of Moscow Hospital 52 looked on at the time and predicted the aftershocks.
ALEXANDER VANYUKOV: Oh, my God, yeah, because I await the result of this after two weeks. There's going to be thousands of patients after a week or two weeks. It's going to be big.
MAYNES: And in fact on Tuesday, Russia announced its third consecutive day of over 10,000 new cases. Mayor Sobyanin argues Moscow is still doing better than comparative large urban centers like New York or Paris. And certainly, there are signs that government efforts to combat the virus are a constant work in progress. Case in point - Mayor Sobyanin says Moscow will now start selling protective masks at local metro stations beginning today.
Charles Maynes, NPR News, Moscow.
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