On 26th January 2022 at a regular meeting the RUIE Coordinating Council for Combatting Coronavirus (the Council) discussed the current epidemiological situation as well as measures to combat the spread of the omicron strain.
Opening the meeting, Andrey Guryev, member of the Bureau of the RUIE Bureau and Chair of the RUIE Coordinating Council for Combatting Coronavirus, noted the significant complication to the epidemic caused by the spread of the Omicron strain of coronavirus.
"Given the high infectivity and short incubation period of the Omicron strain, the current wave was expected. As early as the beginning of January, the head of Rospotrebnadzor Anna Popova warned that the incidence rate could reach 100,000 cases per day. According to the latest data, Omicron has already been detected in most of Russia’s regions and is becoming the dominant strain," said Andrey Guryev.
The chair of the Coordinating Council added that the observed decrease in mortality among the sick by almost a half over the last month is probably due to both the characteristics of the Omicron strain and new methods of diagnosis and treatment.
"At the same time, the decline in mortality is not a reason to weaken preventive measures. According to Mikhail Murashko, the Russian Minister of Health, intensive care units are still full, and the majority of those hospitalised are unvaccinated. This demonstrates the effectiveness of the Sputnik V vaccine against Omicron and underlines the need to continue active vaccination to achieve the minimum required level of collective immunity of 80% of the population of Russia as soon as possible," stated Andrey Guryev.
RUIE President Alexander Shokhin, citing the experience of Israeli doctors, agreed that mass testing makes no sense.
"There are various work schemes under the spread of Omicron. It is no coincidence that the State Duma retracted bills on QR codes which focused on Delta and similar strains. Are we not trying to build a system to combat Omicron relying on past experience?" asked Alexander Shokhin.
Shokhin stated that the high mortality rate from the Delta strain is often linked with medication not always being provided in time.
"We must understand which of the programmes we have developed to combat the pandemic are really useful. We must see what science can offer us on counteracting coronavirus. We need specific methods of treatment and disease prevention. A nasal vaccine, for example, is more widely accessible and better perceived by the public. I would like the Coordinating Council of the Russian Government for Combatting the Spread of Coronavirus to make use of our groundwork," said the President of the RUIE.
Marina Kostina, Deputy Head of the Epidemiological Surveillance Department of Rospotrebnadzor, said that the department would develop additional measures to combat the spread of the Omicron strain based on the latest information.
She noted that over the last week the largest increase in infections among 83 regions was registered in the Moscow region and St. Petersburg (52%). The smallest increase in the number of infections was observed in those over the age of 65, while largest increase was seen in the age group 30-49.
Marina Kostina stressed that Omicron is less severe, and that the registration of patients with the Delta strain continues alongside analysing the immunity status of patients.
Andrey Plutnitsky, Deputy Russian Minister of Health, cited data on the increase in the incidence of the disease, stressing that we should remain vigilant towards the infection.
As of 15th January, 27.9% of those infected in the Russian Federation had been fully vaccinated, 3.2% had been vaccinated once, 68.9% were unvaccinated, and 4.6% had been previously infected or vaccinated (or both infected and vaccinated).
Moreover, of those infected by VOC Omicron in France, as of 31st December 2021 46.4% had been vaccinated, of whom 7.8% had been vaccinated once, 67.1% had received two doses, 24.8% three doses and 0.3% four doses. 26.3% fell ill within 21 days of last dose of vaccine (Delta, 40.4% and 11.4% respectively).
Iliya Dimitrov, Executive Director of the Association of Electronic Marketplaces, presented the results of a statistical analysis by the Hopkins Institute (UK) on COVID-19 infection in comparison to statistics from Russia.
"The number of deaths from COVID-19 in the world may be significantly higher than known data. According to analysts from The Economist, the number of excess deaths since the start of the pandemic could be 22 million, while the WHO cites a figure of 5.6 million," said Ilia Dimitrov, specifying that the Omicron strain is less lethal. 75% fewer people who fall ill with Omicron die than in the previous waves of COVID-19.
Yermolai Solzhenitsyn, senior partner at McKinsey & Company in Moscow, spoke in detail on the specificities of combatting the Omicron strain and on measures to support the economy abroad.
Solzhenitsyn stated that in the USA today the Omicron strain is identified in the majority of cases. Moreover, the country’s health care system is overloaded, medical staff often fall ill and important surgical interventions are postponed because all available capacity is tied up in combatting COVID-19.
Dmitry Lioznov, Director of the A.A. Smorodintsev Research Institute of Influenza, spoke about promising Russian developments in preventing and protecting against new coronavirus strains.
He cited intensive clinical trials of an intranasal combined vaccine against influenza and COVID-19.
"The vaccine forms an immune response to the pathogen, achieving local immunity at the 'entry gate', or the nasopharynx. We hope to enter the third phase of the vaccine’s clinical trials by the end of summer so that the vaccine will be available by 2023," concluded Dmitry Lioznov.
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