Russians curb spending and activity amid second wave of COVID-19
Despite a growing number of COVID-19 cases, there is currently no strict lockdown in Russia, and the government is trying to avoid it in order to help the national economy. However, consumer behaviour is becoming as cautious as during the first wave.
Consumer spending crashed to its lowest level in five months over the last week, reports The Moscow Times adding that Russian shoppers stayed home amid a new wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Payment data compiled by Sberbank for its Sberindex tracker showed that spending was down by more than 10% in the last week of October compared to the same period of the previous year. For cafes and restaurants, the decrease exceeded 50%. Pharmacies and medical goods suppliers were among the few beneficiaries of the second wave with a growth of 33% compared to 2019. Overall, spending dropped to the level last seen at the end of May when shopping facilities and restaurants were closed.
Even though Russia is currently not in a lockdown, the data shows that the second wave is already inflicting damage on the national economy. Russia’s GDP is expected to contract by around 4% this year, so the government is resisting a second lockdown in order to reduce further damage. Last week, Russia’s Minister of Economic Development Maxim Reshetnikov said the country’s recovery had reached a “plateau” and “frozen” in the second half of October.
According to mobility data, Russians are also staying home more. In Moscow, mobility amounts to 49% of pre-coronavirus levels on Citymapper’s Mobility Index, while four weeks ago, the indicator was at 76%. At the beginning of October, Mayor of Moscow Sergei Sobyanin announced a new package of measures including a partial switch to remote working, remote education in middle schools and recommendations for older people to stay at home.
At the same time, Russians remain significantly more active compared to April when a strict nationwide stay-at-home rule was in effect. Yandex’s self-isolation index, where higher scores mean a higher degree of self-isolation, currently stands at 1,4. Although it is the highest weekday reading since May, it is still well below the peak of 3,5 registered during the first wave. The index is based on traffic levels, public transport busyness and data on how busy offices, shops and restaurants are.