(Bloomberg) -- The World Health Organization offered a glimmer of hope to Russia’s escalating efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic by saying the spread of the deadly pathogen in the country may be reaching its peak.
Although Russia has been recording more than 10,000 new confirmed cases a day for over a week and the total exceeded 200,000 on Sunday, the growth in infections slowed below the key level of 7% on May 6. It has steadily decreased to 5.5% since then.
“The cases are still there but the growth rate is stabilizing,” Melita Vujnovic, the head of the United Nations health agency’s office in Russia, said in a phone interview. “We do hope, looking at the last few days, that it is on a plateau.”
Russia last week overtook Germany as the country with the sixth-largest number of reported Covid-19 cases in the world and could soon surpass France, the U.K., Italy and Spain to claim the second place behind the U.S. Although the Russian mortality rate remains below 1%, the only country among the ten most-affected with such a low death incidence, that may increase in the coming weeks, according to the WHO.
“We know that the numbers mean deaths, it means more people will die in the future,” said Vujnovic.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin took a “really prudent” decision to extend the lockdown in the Russian capital, in force since March 30, until the end of May while allowing industry and construction to resume work, said the WHO official.
Russian authorities, who are deciding on measures region by region, should wait until they see two weeks of declining new cases before easing restrictions, according to Vujnovic. They must also be ready to track closely any future resurgence of the virus in order to target specific clusters of the outbreak rather than resorting to sweeping quarantines, she said.
The impact of the coronavirus and a plunge in oil prices will cause a 5.5% contraction in the Russian economy this year, according to the International Monetary Fund. The unemployment rate may double to 10%, a prominent government-linked expert forecast last week. President Vladimir Putin’s approval rating has fallen to a record low as the crisis batters living standards, an opinion poll showed on May 6.
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