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Russia’s coronavirus cases just passed 500,000 — but it’s easing lockdown fast

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Russia surpassed 500,000 on Thursday, and the rate of new daily cases remains high, but restrictions are being lifted quickly ahead of key political events.

Experts say Russia is keen to lift unpopular lockdown measures ahead of two important political milestones which were rescheduled because of the coronavirus pandemic: Moscow’s Victory Day Parade — Russia’s annual show of military hardware — and a historic referendum on constitutional changes that would allow President Vladimir Putin to run for further terms in office.

The Kremlin has insisted that the coronavirus crisis is under control and restrictions can be safely lifted.

Russia’s Covid-19 case tally hit 502,436 Thursday after a further 8,779 cases were reported. The country’s coronavirus crisis center said a further 174 people had died in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 6,532. The number of new cases had risen from 8,404 reported the previous day, but the daily death toll was lower than Wednesday’s 216 fatalities.

Russia has the third-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world, after the U.S. (with over 1.9 million cases) and Brazil (with more than 739,000 cases), according to Johns Hopkins University data. Russia’s low death toll has raised eyebrows with experts suggesting the true death toll could be much higher.

The grim milestone of 500,000 cases and high number of daily cases (albeit declining slowly) comes amid a relatively swift lifting of coronavirus restrictions that were imposed in late March. Russia allowed manufacturing and construction industries to reopen in mid-May, followed by more non-essential retailers reopening on June 1, ranging from hairdressers to pet stores.

Moscow, where the majority of cases and deaths have been recorded, started lifting lockdown measures in early June. It then announced Tuesday that it would abruptly lift remaining restrictions, including those around self-isolation, digital travel passes and a system of scheduled walks that allowed citizens to leave their homes at certain times and in certain areas.

The measures had been very unpopular with some Muscovites comparing the rules to George Orwell’s “1984” and the Gulag labor camps during the Soviet era, according to the Moscow Times.

Russia’s coronavirus cases just passed 500,000 — but it’s easing lockdown fast, CNBC, Jun 10

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