Russia is preparing for another COVID-19 wave early next year, which has spread in recent weeks due to the spread of highly contagious Omicron strains that have threatened markets and lawmakers, three sources in political circles told Reuters.
“A new wave is expected in January-February,” said a source close to the Kremlin, adding that more than 50,000 infections a day were possible.
The two regional government sources said the possibility of a new wave was discussed at a government meeting early next year.
Russia’s daily COVID-19 case has been declining since reaching a high of 41,335 in early November, and although no broad restrictions have been introduced to combat the spread of Omicron, authorities have called for caution ahead of Russia’s long New Year’s holiday.
A source close to the Kremlin said, “We are looking at Omicron and by now it is clear that the disease is milder than in Delta.”
“But again, the expectation is that with fewer hospitalizations than the Omicron Delta, people will just sit at home.”
The Kremlin has often expressed frustration with the slow public acceptance of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine. Russia’s combined immunity against COVID-19, measured using the government’s coronavirus task force vaccine and infection data, stood at 61.8% as of December 30.
A health adviser to a central Russian governor says another wave was expected in early 2022.
“We are expecting a new wave at this time. We are waiting for our compatriots to return from abroad with Omikron after the new year,” the adviser said.
A separate source in the northern government told Reuters that the new wave had been discussed in a meeting with Health Minister Mikhail Murashko and Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova, but that it could not be too strong as Omicron’s symptoms could be less severe.
Russia has so far identified 103 Omicron cases, said Anna Popova, head of consumer health regulator Rospotrebnadzor, on Thursday.
“We understand that Omicron will come to Russia, it is inevitable,” Popova said in an interview on state television.
On Tuesday, Popova said the risk of Omicron spreading must increase after the New Year holidays, which will last from January 1-9.
“We can expect the epidemic to worsen after this holiday,” he said.
The Ministry of Health and the Coronavirus Task Force were not immediately available for comment.
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