Dorothy in masks
'The Wizard of OZ' in time of COVID
Back to normal by summer. It's a bold ambition after almost a year of pandemic-related disruption but, according to the Kremlin, it is a real possibility as the number of people immune to Covid-19 across the world rises further.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told TASS on Monday that sufficient numbers of people will have caught the virus or been immunized against it to form a protective shield across society later this year. "It's already clear that we will be able to approach August with, as they say, an open visor," he added.

By then, he claimed, 60 percent of the world's population would have antibodies, close to the threshold given by some scientists to achieve herd immunity.

After relaxing an initial lockdown early last year, Russia has pursued mass immunity as an epidemiological approach. In November, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin said that around 50 percent of those living in the Russian capital appeared to have immunity to Covid-19. Last week, immunologist Vladislav Zhemchugov said that
"it will be possible to completely get rid of masks when we have a layer of immunity in society approaching 60 percent in any one particular region. This will probably begin with Moscow, because there, I think, is closest to this figure."
This pool of people with antibodies against the virus is said to act as a buffer to slow its spread and reduce the number of fatalities from the pandemic. However, the prospect of eliminating its spread altogether is slim. Natalia Pshenichnaya of Russia's Central Research Institute of Epidemiology also said last week that
"we can't rule out that we won't hit coronavirus incidence rates of zero. As with other acute respiratory viral infections, if Covid-19 keeps circulating as a seasonal infection, it won't disappear forever even after losing its pandemic potential."
Since the start of the pandemic last year, more than 100 million people are known to have caught the virus globally. At least 2.3 million have died, but the true figures are likely to be far higher. In Russia, close to 4 million people have tested positive, and more than 75,000 deaths have been chalked up to coronavirus. However, the country's health watchdog has said that the true toll, as measured by excess deaths, could be more than double that.

Last month, Russia's Education Ministry announced that universities would resume full-time teaching in person, as the number of cases continued to fall. The decision follows Moscow's move to reopen night clubs and drop the curfews that had been imposed on bars and restaurants.