Russian regions told to act as Covid cases pass 2mn
November 19 2020 11:50 PM
empty Red Square
A woman wearing a protective face mask uses her smartphone while holding an air balloon on an almost-empty Red Square in Moscow yesterday.


Russia’s health minister has urged regional leaders to take further steps to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, as the country’s Covid-19 case tally passed 2mn and the number of daily deaths and infections hit new highs.
The Covid-19 respiratory disease is caused by the coronavirus.
Despite the surge in cases, taking Russia’s overall tally to 2,015,608, authorities have resisted imposing lockdown restrictions across the country as they did earlier this year.
Instead, they have imposed strict rules for wearing masks and gloves, and underlined the importance of hygiene and social distancing.
Some regions have brought in their own targeted measures.
Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said the heads of regions with a high incidence of infections should use their authority to improve the situation, including targeted restrictions.
“Unfortunately, not all regional heads have so far exercised this right,” he was quoted as saying by the RIA news agency.
President Vladimir Putin was working almost hourly with the country’s coronavirus response teams, his spokesman said yesterday, a day after the Kremlin chief discussed a shortage of hospital beds and ambulances with senior government officials.
“The situation with Covid is very tense,” the spokesman told reporters. “This topic is now a priority for the president.”
Yesterday the coronavirus crisis response centre reported 23,610 new infections in the previous 24 hours and 463 more deaths related to Covid-19.
Russia’s death toll now stands at 34,850.
Sweden should rethink its decision not to recommend the use of face masks to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus amid a second wave of infections, the Royal Academy of Sciences, which awards the Nobel prizes, said yesterday.
Sweden’s soft-touch pandemic response has focused mostly on voluntary social distancing and the Public Health Agency has cast doubt on the effectiveness of face masks, which are mandatory in many public places in Europe.
However, a report yesterday by the Royal Academy of Sciences said that face masks could play a role in reducing infection, particularly in enclosed spaces.
“I hope there is now a debate and leaders, irrespective of what the public health authority is saying, will take this to heart,” Staffan Normark, who heads the Academy’s expert group on Covid-19, said.
Meanwhile, health officials in Germany say the number of new infections remains far too high but there are signs that the country’s “lockdown lite” is working and could reduce numbers soon.
“It is a fact that the measures are working,” Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases (RKI), told a news conference, referring to Germany’s partial lockdown in place since November 2.
After an exponential increase in the number of infections over the past weeks, Wieler said a plateau had now been reached. “We do not see the number of cases falling yet, but I am optimistic that they will.”
Azerbaijan has introduced new restrictive measures on public transport to curb the spread of the coronavirus as cases soared in the wake of the war over Nagorno-Karabakh.
The World Health Organisation last month predicted that the outbreak would surge in both Azerbaijan and Armenia as their war over the disputed region led to the mobilisation of troops and displacement of civilians.
Yesterday health authorities in Azerbaijan reported 2,597 new cases of Covid-19, the highest number of daily infections since the start of the pandemic this spring.
Total infections stood at 83,994 while deaths reached 1,053 in the country of 10mn.
When the fighting over Karabakh erupted at the turn of October, the number of daily cases in Azerbaijan was hovering around 100.
Italy has registered 36,176 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, the health ministry said yesterday, up from 34,283 the day before.
The ministry also reported 653 Covid-19-related deaths, down from 753 on Wednesday.
Nightspots, restaurants and movie theatres will reopen on Monday in Catalonia, Spain’s northeastern region, after being closed for over a month as part of measures to slow coronavirus infections, the regional government said yesterday.
The wealthy region centred on capital Barcelona closed nightspots and restaurants on October 16, imposed a night-time curfew and partially restricted entry from other regions of Spain as part of measures to fight the pandemic.
Ireland is planning a nationwide cull of mink over fears they may carry a mutated version of the coronavirus detected in the animals in Denmark, a government spokesman said yesterday.
An agriculture ministry spokesman said that testing of Ireland’s mink herd has yielded no positive Covid-19 tests to date.
But the republic’s department of health “indicated that the continued farming of mink represents an ongoing risk of additional mink-adapted (coronavirus) variants emerging”, he said in a statement.
There are three mink farms housing around 120,000 animals across Ireland.
And Sweden’s health agency said yesterday that a number of people who work in the mink industry had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Authorities are analysing virus from the infected people and from infected minks to see if there is a link between the strains, the health agency said in a statement.
It did not specify how many people had tested positive.
Greece will shut one border crossing with Albania and conduct rapid Covid-19 tests on all visitors at its land borders, its government spokesman said yesterday, as cases in northern Greece continue to rise unabated.
Greece has seen a rapid rise in coronavirus cases in recent weeks which forced it to impose a nationwide lockdown, its second this year.
Its northern regions, including the city of Thessaloniki, have been hit the most.
The latest measures will come into effect this morning at 0400 GMT, government spokesman Stelios Petsas said, urging residents to also implement restrictions on movement.

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