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Expert says spike in coronavirus cases in Russia unlikely

The scientist advised to monitor the degree of collective immunity in every Russian region

MOSCOW, May 15. /TASS/. A sudden sharp increase in novel coronavirus cases in Russia is possible only under a ‘very unlikely’ scenario of a new strain, which is totally different from the existing ones, leading immunologist Vladislav Zhemchugov has told TASS.

"Take, for example, India, where case count was low at the initial stage of the pandemic. <…> Persons who did not come in contact with the virus [during first waves of the pandemic] are rapidly falling ill now. This can happen in our country as well, if there is a virus that differs significantly from previous strains and cannot be recognized by the immune system. However, this is very unlikely," he said.

Speaking about Russia’s effort to vaccinate its population against the novel coronavirus, the scientist advised to monitor the degree of collective immunity in every region, to pay more attention to regions where the percentage of people with immunity against the disease is low and to send more vaccines to those areas.

"It would be great to see aggregated data of novel coronavirus antibody tests from different regions, because the success of the vaccination campaign depends fully on that. <...> This figure would indicate how many people have never come in contact with the virus. This information is becoming more and more relevant when forecasts are made about when [epidemiological] restrictions should be lifted," Zhemchugov said.

"For example, my calculations suggest that about 70% of Moscow residents or even more are already [immune to the virus], but this percentage may be way lower in some other regions. Therefore, the infection can start spreading rapidly in those areas," he added.

Russia launched a nationwide vaccination campaign for people aged 18 and older on January 18. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said that over 24 million of Russians have already received at least one dose of the anti-coronavirus vaccine. He also said that herd immunity against COVID-19 should be formed by the end of the year, and urged Russians to get jabs more actively.

About 161.2 million people have been infected with the novel coronavirus worldwide since the start of the pandemic, and over 3.3 million have died. To date, Russia has registered 4,922,901 coronavirus cases, with 4,537,634 recoveries and 115,116 fatalities, according to the data of the federal anti-coronavirus crisis center.

In the past 24 hours, Russia’s confirmed coronavirus incidences added on 9,462 new cases, a record high not seen since March 20, while Moscow registered the highest number of 3,818 new coronavirus cases since January 17.