Oct 16, 2020
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COVID-19: what to prepare for next?

The second wave of COVID-19, which epidemiologists from all over the world warned about, has become an accomplished fact: in different countries, including Russia, there is an explosive increase in the incidence. How effective were the restrictive measures and will we all have a new lockdown?

"Quarantines" and predictions of a "friend from the administration"

At the end of March, President Vladimir Putin announced non-working days with pay, after which the strangest vacation in our life began. At the same time, Moscow and the regions began to introduce a self-isolation regime in the image and likeness of foreign countries: Russians were forbidden to leave their homes except for urgent reasons - going to the nearest pharmacy or grocery store, making an emergency visit to the doctor, walking the dog, taking out the trash or visiting work. Schools have switched to distance learning, many companies have started working remotely. The term "quarantine" was extended twice. On June 8, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced the lifting of restrictive measures, after which other regions also began to cancel the lockdown.

The effectiveness of the "draconian" disease containment measure remains the subject of intense debate around the world. It has a short-term effect, and the consequences for the economy turned out to be devastating: the whole world is calculating the losses from blocking. It is difficult to say how effective the "quarantines" were in Russia, since the minimum daily number of new cases was revealed at the height of summer, when self-isolation ended long ago. Comparison of the self-isolation index with the dynamics of morbidity in some regions showed that the increase in new cases of COVID-19 is to a greater extent associated with local outbreaks and individual events - for example, the celebration of Easter.

What's in store for us?

Throughout the summer, Russians have been discussing alarming rumors that from September 20, “we will all be shut down again,” referring to an “acquaintance from the administration,” who has become an online meme. His ominous predictions did not materialize, but the explosive increase in the incidence showed that he was not too far from the truth. Back in early September, Sergei Sobyanin dismissed rumors of a possible quarantine in Moscow, and on September 25, the mayor's office introduced a self-isolation regime for the elderly and ordered that less than 30% of the organization's personnel be transferred to “remote control” and employees from risk groups.

A source for Vedomosti said that the Moscow mayor's office is currently working on several scenarios to tighten measures to combat coronavirus. The toughest involves a return to access control. Another source close to the Moscow government says that without an improvement in the epidemiological situation, one hundred percent self-isolation will be declared within two weeks.

The further will depend on the dynamics of morbidity, however, there are already "alarm bells" about a repeated All-Russian lockdown: on the eve of the government of the Rostov region announced a regime of self-isolation. Also, restrictions on the work of catering and entertainment establishments have been introduced. At the moment, this region is in fourth place in terms of morbidity dynamics after Moscow, the Moscow region and St. Petersburg.

"Mask mode", gloves, antiseptics and social distancing

Aggressive "anti-mask" sentiments, which become the subject of conflicts with sellers and guards in stores, are largely due to the fact that the World Health Organization only in June formulated a clear position on this issue. Back in April, Rospotrebnadzor published WHO recommendations, which stated that a medical mask is not needed for healthy people, "since there is no data on its usefulness to protect healthy people." Then they were advised to wear only the sick, so as not to infect others. In June, the head of the organization, Adhanom Ghebreyesus, announced that in the face of a pandemic, everyone should wear masks, since people who are sick with coronavirus can spread the virus before symptoms appear, and in addition, there is a high percentage of asymptomatic carriers.

These recommendations were developed on the basis of a meta-analysis of more than 200 studies and comparative observations, which showed high effectiveness of maintaining social distance and wearing medical or multilayered cloth masks. N95 respirators have proven to be even more reliable, and the obvious benefits of shields and goggles have also been identified.

It is noteworthy that scientists did not even consider such a measure of protection as "wearing gloves" actively promoted by Rospotrebnadzor. Obviously, gloves protect only from fines.

What's in store for us?

In all countries fighting the pandemic, emphasis is placed on maintaining social distance, wearing medical masks, respirators and protective face shields and glasses. And Russia is no exception: in all regions there is an increase in the mask regime. At least in the near future, we will all have to wear masks.

Again on the "distance"?

The predictions of the “acquaintance from the administration” especially worried the parents of schoolchildren, since the spring experience showed that the Russian education system is not ready for the distance learning format. However, the relationship between school openings and an increase in morbidity is clear: in the first week of the school year, more than 1,000 teachers contracted the coronavirus and did not come to work. There are daily news about the quarantine of classes and entire schools. In foreign countries, the increase in morbidity is associated with the beginning of the school year: for example, in France, three weeks after the opening, more than 80 schools went into quarantine.

Officials of the Ministry of Education have repeatedly stated that they do not intend to resume distance learning, however, the gradual introduction of restrictions has already begun in Moscow. At first, early autumn holidays were announced for two weeks, later Sergei Sobyanin said that after the holidays, high school students will study remotely for two weeks. According to the mayor, senior schoolchildren are more susceptible to morbidity, in addition, they objectively cope better with their studies at a "remote location", and their parents will not have to sit with them at home.

What's in store for us?

According to a BBC source, the city authorities are considering extending school holidays for another week. Their duration will depend on the dynamics of morbidity, and if the situation worsens, it is possible to introduce distance learning. This is the most pessimistic scenario, but it is better to prepare for it now.

Note that in the United States, Donald Trump presented a new rapid test for coronavirus, which allows detecting the presence of a virus on the mucous membrane of the carrier in 15 minutes. Schools will receive 100 million copies of the test so that state governments can respond to local outbreaks in a timely manner and support face-to-face learning. Russia has not yet considered this possibility, but if the American experience is successful, it is possible that it will be implemented in other countries too.

Checkin in nightclubs and other experiments in the entertainment industry

Yesterday the Moscow mayor's office announced the start of an experiment to introduce check-in in Moscow nightclubs. From October 19, it will be possible to get into nightclubs and bars only upon registration of a phone number. At the entrance, you will need to scan a QR code or send an SMS to a special number 7377. According to Sergei Sobyanin, this measure will not prevent the spread of coronavirus, but if an infection is detected in one of the visitors, it will be possible to notify all guests that they are at risk.

At the moment, only in the Rostov region the work of catering and entertainment establishments has been stopped, in Moscow and other regions they are in no hurry to introduce such measures.

What's in store for us?

Entertainment and restaurant industry officials interviewed by Bell said they had not received any quarantine signals so far. The only exception is cinemas, their owners are preparing for a possible closure.

The spring lockdown dealt a devastating blow to the industry, so most restaurants and entertainment venues may simply not be able to withstand the re-closure. Most likely, new technologies will be introduced to contain the disease. On the eve, the Avtomatika concern of the Rostec state corporation announced the launch of the production of the Eco Gateway installation intended for automatic disinfection of clothes and open body parts of visitors to restaurants, shopping centers and other establishments. Processing is carried out within 5 seconds, the disinfecting effect lasts for three hours, in addition, the system is equipped with a non-contact thermometer and a dispenser for treating hands with an antiseptic. How much such an installation will cost and whether entertainment establishments can afford and promise it is still unknown.

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