russia mask
© Sputnik / Alexander Galperin
Passengers of the St. Petersburg metro in masks.
Despite a dramatic spike in daily reported coronavirus infections over the past week, the World Health Organization's representative in Russia has cautioned against the idea of re-introducing harsh restrictions in the country.

Melita Vujnovic warned on Friday that prolonged lockdowns influence the human mental state, and therefore should be avoided at all costs. Russia imposed one of world's toughest quarantines following the first serious outbreaks of Covid-19 in March, and many Russians fear the harsh winter in most of the country will make a repeat hard for people to bear.

"The local authorities know the current epidemiological situation better (than I do). But a major lockdown must be avoided at all costs. People must realize and bear their personal responsibility: keep maximum social distance, disinfect hands, wear masks," Vujnovic told news outlet Forbes. "This is also a business's task to protect employees and clients, to increase distance between them and so on. Local restrictions may be a solution, but, of course, we cannot rule out introduction of other necessary measures,"

"Maybe, imposition of some local lockdowns [is possible]. But cooperation and support of the society is necessary," Vujnovic said. She was likely referring to fears that it will be hard to get Russians to buy into another nationwide quarantine.

The WHO expert also spoke of the affect of another lockdown on the economy and the treatment of other illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.


Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin's spokesman said the Kremlin has not even been talking about these sort of measures, despite the surge in daily infections, which on Friday passed the 9,000 mark for the first time since June 1. "As far as I know, this is not being considered now, as far as I know, it is not discussed," Dmitry Peskov explained.

He noted that the anti-coronavirus crisis center continues to function. He also added that "in [the] regions they are also working on it, undertaking appropriate measures." As an example, the spokesman cited the actions of Moscow authorities. "As for the lockdown, currently it is not discussed," he reiterated.

The spokesman, who himself underwent treatment for coronavirus infection in May, expressed regrets over the rather rapid increase in infections in Russia. "This requires a certain mobilization of all systems, both at the federal and at the regional levels," he stressed.

In response to the question of under which conditions a fresh self-isolation regime, or non-working period, may be introduced, Peskov said: "It's not the Kremlin making the decision on non-working weeks, this is not the Kremlin's prerogative; it is the state crisis center which refers to the expert opinion before coming up with any proposals as a result of profound analysis of the situation and the possible development scenario."

On Friday morning, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova called on citizens to comply with the rules implemented by the federal and regional governments, warning that self-isolation may come back in the future if the numbers continue to rise.

"You and I have no choice: either we comply with all those safety measures prescribed by doctors and thereby reduce the load on the bed fund, or we go into self-isolation," Golikova said, adding that "80-85%" of Russians diagnosed with Covid-19 did not observe any safety measures.

According to the crisis center, the number of coronavirus infections in Russia over the past 24 hours increased by 9,412 on Friday. According to the latest statistics, over 34 million people have been infected worldwide and more than one million deaths have been reported. To date, 1,194,643 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Russia, with 970,296 patients having recovered from the disease. Moscow's latest official data indicates 21,077 fatalities nationwide.