Faced with stubbornly low vaccination rates, Moscow authorities announced just over a week ago that at least 60% of staff in service industries — spanning everything from catering to housing and transport — must get vaccinated with at least one shot by July 15.
“Vaccination remains voluntary,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
But while Peskov says someone can refuse a vaccine, they just might lose their livelihood for doing so.
“If a Muscovite works in the service sector and he has to get a vaccine but he has made a decision not to get vaccinated, he simply has to stop working in the service sector. And if he wants to, he will look for a job in another place that is not connected with those areas where the mandatory presence of vaccinations is imputed,” he said.
Russian officials have been giving regular updates on television and in briefings on the rapidly worsening situation across the country. Worrying images have started popping up again on Russian social media sites illustrating the increasing burden of coronavirus across the country. Both Moscow and St. Petersburg reported record high daily death tolls Monday, according to Russia’s anti-coronavirus crisis center.
Patients have been seen lying in hospital corridors in St. Petersburg — which is currently playing host to a number of Euro 2020 soccer matches — as an overburdened medical system battles an increasing number of infections. Images of queues of ambulances waiting outside hospitals to admit patients are reappearing.
Mayor of Moscow Sergey Sobyanin warned Monday that the burden was also growing on hospitals in the capital. “Over the past week, we have broken new records for the number of hospitalizations, people in intensive care, and the number of deaths from coronavirus,” he said, according to state media agency RIA Novosti.
Despite being the first country in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik V, for use in August 2020, Russia has since lagged behind much of the world in vaccination rates.
As of Monday, 23 million people in Russia — a country of around 146 million — had been vaccinated with at least one dose, the health minister told state media. Some 16.7 million people have had both shots, according to figures released by the government last week. That’s around 11% of the population. Around 46% of people in the US have been fully vaccinated. In the UK, it’s about 48%.
Even though the pandemic has hit Russia hard, the idea of being forced into vaccination is unpopular.
While the Russian government insists it has not introduced a blanket mandatory vaccination scheme, testimony from ordinary workers — who did not want their full names to be used — suggests a huge sense of pressure and…