Russia’s compulsory vaccine ban as cases of new coronavirus surge

Image copyright Egor Sheptak/ Kremlin Moscow has ordered everyone aged over 60 to stay home from work for four months, amid a row over vaccinations. It is also putting teams of doctors to work…

Russia's compulsory vaccine ban as cases of new coronavirus surge

Image copyright Egor Sheptak/ Kremlin

Moscow has ordered everyone aged over 60 to stay home from work for four months, amid a row over vaccinations.

It is also putting teams of doctors to work to fight a lingering cold that has led to health problems.

Russia’s Health Ministry said it was ordered by President Vladimir Putin to respond to the outbreak of a potentially lethal virus.

New statistics show an increase in cases since the start of the year.

In total, 1,489 people died of the new coronavirus in 2016 – 20 cases were found so far this year.

Coronavirus – from the same family as the one that caused Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) – is believed to be spread through droplets during coughing and sneezing.

It is not spread person-to-person and there is no known cure.

The health ministry said it had implemented a compulsory four-month ban on vaccinating anyone over 60, as well as a “sudden stop” on all routine vaccinations.

And it said it had created a group of specialists to deal with people who had come down with the cold, which it is thought to be associated with the virus.

How would people get sick?

Vaccines remain the cheapest and most reliable way to prevent infections.

During the outbreak of the Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever disease in 2006, Moscow asked the World Health Organisation (WHO) to give Russia some 50,000 doses of jabs.

Those who did not comply were warned they risked losing their jobs.

Image copyright Christopher Anderson/Fodors Image caption A tourist died of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever in 2016

In Britain, anyone who misses one of their medical check-ups risks losing part of their medical benefit.

For the past 20 years or so, the Soviet Union forced all its citizens to have vaccinations – but since the fall of the USSR and then again when sanctions were imposed on Russia, many people have continued to ignore the law.

How can people avoid contracting the virus?

While it is not spread by direct person-to-person contact, many of the people who have died of the virus had recently visited countries where the virus is common.

People who are feeling unwell, as well as those who are at greater risk, such as pregnant women, should avoid outdoor activities.

Vaccinations need to be taken before travel to countries that have an outbreak of the virus.

Prof Peter Openshaw, head of respiratory and public health at Imperial College London, said: “The problem with having so many people around, like elderly people, is you leave them there for four months.

“You may have missed that they went to Egypt or any other country. It is very, very hard to get them to do that.

“This will be very difficult for Putin and for the Russian authorities.”

Russia and Turkey have both begun a public information campaign about the virus, warning pregnant women and other vulnerable groups against travelling to areas where the virus is present.

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