COVID-19: Putin Ends Russia’s ‘Nonworking Period’; Kazakhstan Eases Restrictions
Russian President Vladimir Putin says coronavirus measures that have prevented workers from going to their jobs in Russia will formally end on May 12 even as the country’s coronavirus caseload posts daily-record increases.
Putin said in an address to the nation on May 11 that many coronavirus-related health restrictions will remain in place with a gradual easing to be carried out at different speeds in the various regions of the country, depending on local developments.
The speech, Putin’s fifth to the country about the pandemic within eight weeks, comes as officials continue to debate how to bolster the economy amid a wave of coronavirus infections that have given the country the fourth-highest number of cases in the world behind the United States, Spain, and the United Kingdom
“As of May 12, it is necessary to create terms and conditions to resume operations in energy, communications, other basic industries where direct contact with consumers is not required,” Putin said in the televised speech, adding that “the epidemic and associated restrictions have had a strong impact on the economy and hurt millions of our citizens.”
According to information posted on May 11 on a coronavirus data website set up by the Russian government, 11,656 people tested positive for the virus in Russia during the previous 24 hours, a one-day record.
That brings the Russian government’s official tally to 221,344 infections with more than 2,000 deaths.
Russian officials say 5.6 million tests have been carried out in Russia. They say the tests have revealed that nearly half of the people infected by the coronavirus had not been showing any symptoms when they were tested.
Meanwhile, Moscow’s civil registry office said on May 11 that there was a 20 percent increase in fatalities during April 2020 compared with the monthly average over the past 10 years.
Despite having the fastest growth rate of coronavirus infections in Europe, Russia still has a comparatively low mortality rate of 0.9 percent.
Some critics say that suggests the number of deaths in Russia is being underreported while others say test results can be inaccurate.
By comparison, Italy had confirmed a total of 219,070 cases by May 11 with a death toll of 30,560, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. France has had 177,094 infections and 26,383 deaths.
The Belarusian soccer federation announced on May 11 it is postponing two upcoming matches because players from two teams are suspected of having COVID-19.
Belarus has downplayed the coronavirus pandemic and the country’s top soccer league has allowed games to continue in front of fans while federations across the rest of Europe have postponed matches or canceled their seasons.
But the Belarusian Football Federation now says a first-division game scheduled for May 15 between clubs FC Minsk and FC Neman Grodno has been postponed.
A match between Arsenal Dzerzhinsk and GOBZHD scheduled for May 16 also has been postponed.
“This decision was made due to the suspicion of the presence of the COVID-19 virus among the players of Arsenal Dzerzhinsk and Minsk,” the federation said.
The Belarusian federation says extra precautions have been taken at stadiums during the pandemic, including antiseptic cleaning stations, measuring the body temperature of spectators, and social distancing in the stands.
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, in power since 1994, has said the world is in a “psychosis” and has shunned restrictive measures implemented in other European countries to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
On May 9, Lukashenka pushed ahead with Belarus’s controversial Victory Day military parade marking the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.
Neighboring Russia, which is emerging as a global coronavirus hotspot with more than 10,000 new cases recorded per day, postponed its Victory Day celebrations.
Belarus has registered nearly 24,000 infections and 135 deaths from the virus as of May 11. Experts believe the figures underreport the extent of the outbreak there.
Elsewhere in Europe, Germany’s Bundesliga announced last week that its season will resume on May 16 without fans in the stadiums — a move that is being closely watched by other leagues.
Soccer leagues in Italy, Spain, and Britain hope to restart their seasons by June or July. In France, the 10 remaining league matches have been canceled.
Kosovo’s acting prime minister says he has been tested for the coronavirus and will wait for the results in self-isolation at home.
Albin Kurti said May 11 he went into quarantine after having met with a government official who had close contacts with a person confirmed positive with the virus.
Kurti said he would remain isolated until the test result is announced and would carry out government duties “at a distance but with the same commitment.”
Kosovo has lifted some of its lockdown restrictions, but its borders are still closed and most businesses are shut.
As of May 11, Kosovo had 884 confirmed infections and 28 fatalities.
Kurti’s government collapsed in March after only 50 days in power, losing a no-confidence vote initiated by his coalition partners amid disputes over the handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the removal of trade tariffs on Serbian goods.
Kurti has stayed on in a caretaker capacity. He wants to hold snap parliamentary elections once the pandemic is over.
Kazakhstan has lifted its state of emergency imposed in March to slow the spread of the coronavirus, but some restrictions remain as Central Asia’s hardest-hit country continues to battle the pandemic.
After the announcement on May 11, long lines of vehicles appeared on roads leading to Almaty as police and security forces continued to block cars and trucks from entering, with officials saying that the nation’s largest city, along with the capital Nur-Sultan, remain under lockdown until further notice.
The government announced that, as of May 11, all nongrocery shops occupying up to 2,000 square meters, beauty salons, and education centers for children may reopen.
President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev said that the remaining restrictions will be lifted gradually, depending on developments in each region or city.
He added that half of the personnel at state companies and other entities had resumed work, while owners and managers of private companies and businesses can decide for themselves how many employees are essential to resume operations.
Toqaev called on citizens to continue to stay home and not gather in groups larger than three people until all restrictions are lifted to avoid a second wave of COVID-19 spreading, which is “very possible.”
Kazakhstan has registered the largest number of coronavirus cases in the region with 5,138 recorded infections, including 31 deaths, as of May 11.
In Tajikistan, residents of the capital, Dushanbe, said to RFE/RL that some people with COVID-19 symptoms are encouraged to treat themselves at home as the capacity for treatment at some hospitals is limited.
Senior students of the Tajik State Medical University and those who graduated from the institution just days ago told RFE/RL that many of them had been forced to work at hospitals in groups treating coronavirus patients due to a shortage of medical personnel.
After weeks of officially having no cases, Tajikistan finally confirmed the presence of the coronavirus in the country on April 30, just ahead of a mission from the World Health Organization.
The latest official data in Tajikistan, issued on May 9, said that the number of coronavirus there was 612, including 20 deaths. But many in the country say the number may be much higher because of underreporting by officials.
In neighboring Kyrgyzstan, the government on May 11 introduced fines that can exceed $330 for violating coronavirus restrictions, including the failure to wear masks outdoors.
Kyrgyz health authorities say the latest number of coronavirus cases in the country has reached 1,016, including 12 deaths.
In Uzbekistan, the latest figures are 2453 infected, including 10 deaths.
The fifth nation in region, Turkmenistan, has not reported a single coronavirus case.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has been working on possible visit to Turkmenistan to assess the situation on the ground of one of the world’s most tightly run countries.
Experts are skeptical of the claim that there are no cases given the lack of transparency and an independent media in the country.
Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036