The Russian authorities could prevent 200 thousand deaths from covid. But they refused the second lockdown because the economy was more important to them. The report of the Liberal Mission Foundation – a brief retelling
On July 19, the Liberal Mission Foundation released its report “More than a covid. An authoritarian regime and Russian society in the face of a pandemic. ” It examines what was the reaction of the Russian state and society to the pandemic and why Russia, according to the authors of the report, is suffering defeat in the fight against coronavirus. Meduza summarized the main findings of the report.
At first, the Russian authorities’ response to the pandemic was effective. The restrictions, introduced at the end of March 2020, turned out to be tougher than in most countries of the world – including Europe. Perhaps this was due to the fact that the Russian authorities were guided by the experience of China or planned to quickly stop the pandemic in order to vote on amendments to the Constitution.
Thanks to the hard lokdaunu at the end of March – April, excess mortality in Russia was absent . But in May – June, the restrictions began to be lifted. This led to the spread of the coronavirus inland, and in July the excess mortality reached 27% of the natural level.
The premature cancellation of the lockdown can be explained by popular discontent over isolation and unpaid days off, the government’s unwillingness to bear the economic costs of restrictions and compensate for them to the population, as well as the voting on constitutional amendments.
Simultaneously with the lifting of the lockdown, the authorities began to manipulate both the restrictions themselves (prohibiting rallies , but allowing voting on amendments) and statistics on morbidity and mortality. This gave society both a reason for distrust of official statements and a false signal about the danger of a pandemic: they began to treat it as “fake”, and a return to lockdown seemed to people a senseless measure.
At the beginning of September 2020, the level of restrictions in Russia was lower than the global average and in most European countries. Despite the beginning of the second wave, they did not tighten anti-coronavirus measures. As a result, excess mortality rose sharply: in October it reached 40%, and in December it increased to 66%.MORE ON THE STRATEGY OF THE RUSSIAN AUTHORITIES
The reason for the rejection of the second round of restrictions was probably a combination of political (negative attitude of the population towards the lockdown) and economic (unwillingness to spend money reserves) reasons. It was decided to keep the state “safety cushion” for solving other problems – in particular, in case of strengthening of sanctions, the authors of the report say. As a result, for example, Brazil, whose GDP per capita is one and a half times lower than that of Russia, sent two to three times more funds to help citizens and businesses in relation to GDP.
In addition, a significant part of the aid never reached the recipients: they faced difficulties and delays in receiving money. “The impression was that the government was more afraid to spend the allocated funds than to leave without money those who need them most,” writes one of the authors of the report, director of the Center for Economic Policy Research at the Faculty of Economics of Moscow State University, Oleg Buklemishev.
Thanks to the low level of restrictions and the abandonment of the second lockdown, the decline in GDP in Russia in 2020 was not as serious as in other countries – 3.1%. The downside is that the economy will not recover so dynamically: according to the forecast of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), by the end of 2021, the growth rates of the Russian economy will begin to lag behind the world average.
In addition, Russia has paid for the relative stability of the economy with a high excess mortality. According to the calculation model proposed in the report, from March 2020 to May 2021, it amounted to 532 thousand people (before the start of the third wave of coronavirus), which is 26% higher than the natural level. This is not an extremely high figure: the records belong to the countries of South America. But if Russia managed to keep at the excess mortality rate of 15% (this level was until October 2020), then by May 2021 there would be 220 thousand fewer deaths, the authors of the report say.
In addition, the “conflicting signals and manipulative approach” of the Russian authorities to the problem of coronavirus has created distrust in the society about the measures taken in the country to combat the pandemic, including vaccinations. Russia was unable to launch an active vaccination campaign before the arrival of the third wave of the pandemic. As a result, in June 2021, mortality from coronavirus in Russia increased by 14% compared to June 2020.