On crest of wave: health workers try to explain upsurge in COVID-19 incidence in Russia

A rise in the number of people infected with COVID-19 is registered in Russia, virologists explain the upsurge happened because of the season — though masks are recommended until March 2021

On crest of wave: health workers try to explain upsurge in COVID-19 incidence in Russia
Photo: mos.ru

The number of COVID-19 infections is rising in Russia. A similar tendency is seen in other countries as well: the death toll in the USA has already surpassed 200,000 people, Great Britain is expecting “harsh winter”, Madrid is waiting for the army’s help to block poor districts. Tatarstan doesn’t have a rise in the number of patients yet — however, there is no fall in the number of newly infected people. Some world leaders and mass media are raising the alarm and talking about the second wave of the epidemic, some countries have already imposed new restrictive measures. The chief epidemiologist of Tatarstan told Realnoe Vremya that it wasn’t correct to talk about the second wave in general because the first wave of the epidemic wasn’t over. While virologists explain the rise with the fact that the seasonal flu and viral respiratory infections have appeared and Russians are back from holiday. Moreover, one shouldn’t refuse masks until March 2021.

Rise in number of people infected with coronavirus is registered in Russia — is it second wave of the epidemic?

The number of people newly infected with COVID-19 coronavirus is rising in Russia — this is happening after several weeks and even months when the curve seemed to go down. So the rise in the middle of September was 6,148 people, over 6,000 were diagnosed the previous days. What’s important, only 2,616 patients recovered, that’s to say, the dynamics of active cases remains positive — 3,500 a day.

While the total number of cases already exceeded a million Russia, 911,000 of them recovered. It is 3,5% of the total number of patients around the world (31 million people by the WHO). Almost 20,000 people have died from the novel virus since the beginning of the pandemic in Russia or, more precisely, 19,498 people or 2% of total deaths around the world. Russia ranks fourth on the list of countries with the biggest number of cases. The USA (over 6 million), India with almost 5 million cases and Brazil where more than 4 million people with coronavirus were diagnosed by late September are the leaders. In mortality rate, Russia is 12th, the same USA, Brazil, India are in the top 3.

On 21 September, 7,021 cases of COVID-19 were registered in Tatarstan. 5,905 people have recovered during the whole period. Photo: mos.ru

No growth in Tatarstan, neither is there fall in incidence

Moreover, as for Tatarstan, we couldn’t talk about the second wave of the coronavirus in late September. On the other hand, neither can we speak about the fall in the number of new cases. For instance, on 13 September, the Tatarstan Ministry of Health Care reported on 23 new cases of COVID-19 (21 are contact cases, not imported). By that moment, 6,835 COVID-19 cases were registered in Tatarstan, 5,636 people recovered. 23 new cases were found on 14 September, then 22, 20. On September, there were 23 new cases of COVID-19 (mostly contact cases, that’s to say, 21). 25-26 cases were detected on 18 and 19 September, however only 23 were on 20 September, while 24 new cases appeared on 21 September.

On 21 September, 7,021 cases of COVID-19 were registered in Tatarstan. 5,905 people have recovered during the whole period.

Seasonal flu and viral respiratory infections explain the rise. Masks shouldn’t be taken off until March 2021

Chief visiting epidemiologist of the Tatarstan Ministry of Health Care Dmitry Lopushov explained to Realnoe Vremya it wasn’t correct in general to talk about the second wave of the epidemic, while the number of cases rose because of the season of other diseases:

“It isn’t correct to talk about second waves. The epidemiological process of the coronavirus goes on here. It hasn’t disappeared anywhere. But the season of a rise in the incidence of flu and viral respiratory infections is beginning now. And this season has coincided with the ongoing process of the coronavirus infection.”

How should ordinary people behave and consider it? All restrictive measures — when it comes to both mask-wearing, use of antiseptics and recommendations to avoid crowds of people — stay, Dmitry Lopushov warned.

“Social distance, wearing face masks, using medications for the prevention of influenza and viral respiratory infections, vaccination against influenza — there’s the list of recommendations recommended by the chief epidemiologist of Tatarstan. “The restrictive measures will remain in place not only until the end of the year but until March 2021. First, a seasonal rise in the incidence of influenza and viral respiratory infections will continue until the end of the year. Second, there will be a usual rise in the incidence of influenza — usually in the second week of January, which lasts until about March.”

Russian authorities are not going to introduce new restrictive measures

The authorities in Russia are also trying not to cause panic, head of Rosobrnadzor Anzor Muzaev expressed the hope that “there will be no second waves and second such a large-scale wave of distance learning”. Now 242,000 patients with Covid-19 remain under supervision, and more than 43 million studies have been conducted.

The highest number of recorded cases is recorded in Moscow, where the biggest increase in new cases of coronavirus is also identified — 915 on 20 September (with a total of 277,4 million). Among the disadvantaged regions — St. Petersburg (more than 200 new cases — nearly 41,000 in total), Moscow Oblast (almost 200 new cases with 71,700 infected from the start of the pandemic), Rostov Oblast (177 and 20,200) and Nizhny Novgorod (162 and 31,000).

Head of Rospotrebnadzor Anna Popova sees no reason to introduce new restrictions due to coronavirus. Photo: kremlin.ru

Head of Rospotrebnadzor Anna Popova sees no reason to introduce new restrictions due to coronavirus. On September 21, following the meeting with the director of the WHO Regional Office For Europe, she said that the epidemiological situation in Russia was stable, “despite the increase in the number of new cases of coronavirus”. “The growth is associated with the beginning of the respiratory deceases season in the country” Popova explained, confirming the words of Tatarstan epidemiologist Dmitry Lopushov. Rospotrebnadzor also assured that such turn of events was expected in the second half of September and they were ready for an increase in the number of new cases.

Let us note that, according to the observations of Realnoe Vremya, the majority of Russian virologists who actively commented on the course of the epidemic in the first months today flatly refuse to comment on the next fears of an increase in the number of cases. The topic of the “second wave of the epidemic”, as well as coronavirus, has set the teeth on edge, experts and most of the population are tired of this topic. This, of course, does not mean that there is no longer any epidemic or that it has declined.

Now, after people have returned to offices, schools and institutes and some restrictions have been lifted, contacts have resumed and even increased, Butenko says. Photo: Maksim Platonov

Expert: people have returned from vacation — hence a surge in incidence

Alexander Butenko, Professor, virologist, head of the the Laboratory of Biology of Arboviruses at the D.I. Ivanovsky Moscow Research Institute of Virology, also does not share concerns about the “second wave”. As he told Realnoe Vremya, what is happening today is only a continuation of the first wave. The pandemic is not over, he assured.

“Virus calculation is very active in the human population. Now, after people have returned to work, schools and institutes and some restrictions have been lifted, contacts have resumed and even increased. Therefore, the reason for the increase in morbidity is absolutely clear, and, generally speaking, this is to be expected, there are no tricks here, however, as well as nothing threatening, especially for Russia. There are a number of countries, such as Brazil and India, which later became involved in the pandemic, and their epidemiological process unfolds naturally,” he explained.

The protection measures used until recently have shown their effectiveness — the mask and glove regime in crowded areas, social distancing, 14-day quarantine upon return from abroad or contact with a sick person, minimising communication with the elderly — all this has worked and continues to work, Butenko agrees with Dmitry Lopushov. At the same time, it is doubtful to organise “mass marathon races and, in principle, any mass events, and twice a month, when 25,000 people gather in one place,” the virologist believes. Let us remind that on August 24 a night race was held in Moscow with 8,000 participants, and on August 20 — a marathon with 25,000 athletes.

“People were standing without masks, shoulder to shoulder, for sure, among them there are infected, carriers of the virus. And this, I think, is unnecessary, it could be postponed,” the virologist advised.

By Sergey Afanasyev
Tatarstan