Dozens of Putin's Entourage Test Positive for Covid-19, President in IsolationPolitics | September 16, 2021, Thursday // 12:37| views
President Vladimir Putin announced on Thursday that dozens of people in his inner circle at the Kremlin had tested positive for coronavirus, AFP reported. Earlier this week, the 68-year-old Putin said he was self-isolating after announcing an outbreak among members of his entourage. "Cases of the coronavirus were detected in my inner circle. Not just one or two but several dozen people," Putin said, speaking via video link at a meeting of a Moscow-led security alliance.
News of the extent of the outbreak at the Kremlin comes a day before staggered three-day parliamentary elections open in Russia. Putin had been due to attend the meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) in Tajikistan's capital Dushanbe in person, but said on Tuesday he would instead join remotely. Authorities have gone to great lengths to protect Putin -- who has been vaccinated with Russia's homegrown Sputnik V jab -- since the start of the pandemic.
Russia has the fifth-highest number of recorded Covid cases, according to an AFP tally, and has struggled to rein in infections despite easy access to vaccines. According to the latest figures, the country has recorded more than 7 million cases and 195,041 deaths, the highest death toll in Europe.
Infections have been falling in recent days after a spike this summer, but health officials still reported 18,841 new cases and 792 new deaths on Wednesday.
Authorities have struggled with a vaccine-sceptic population, with independent polls showing that a majority of Russians do not plan to be inoculated. As of Tuesday, about 40.2 million of Russia's 146 million people had been fully vaccinated, according to the Gogov website, which tallies Covid data from the regions.
Russia has several homegrown vaccines freely available to the public, but does not distribute any Western-made jabs.
Moscow, the epicentre of Russia's outbreak, and a host of regions have introduced mandatory vaccination measures to speed up the inoculation drive, and Putin has repeatedly called on Russians to get vaccinated.
Russia is holding three days of voting this weekend for a new parliament that is unlikely to change the country’s political complexion. According to the AP there’s no expectation that United Russia, the party devoted to President Vladimir Putin, will lose its dominance of the State Duma, the elected lower house of parliament. The main questions to be answered are whether the party will retain its current two-thirds majority that allows it to amend the constitution; whether anemic turnout will dull the party’s prestige; and whether imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s Smart Voting initiative proves to be a viable strategy against it.
“There is very little intrigue in these elections … and in fact they will not leave a special trace in political history,” Andrei Kolesnikov, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center, told The Associated Press./TASS
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