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Antidepressant reduced Covid-19 hospitalisation risk; Kiev imposes new curbs as virus cases surge; Russia sees record virus cases, deaths


Moscow: Russia reported record numbers of daily coronavirus cases and deaths on Thursday as Moscow shut down non-essential services for 11 days to combat the surge in infections.

The country hardest-hit in Europe by the pandemic, Russia has struggled with low vaccination rates despite developing several of its own jabs. Recent weeks have seen daily numbers of cases and deaths hit the highest of the pandemic, with the official government tally on Thursday reporting new records of 40,096 infections and 1,159 fatalities.

Authorities have shied away from the kind of severe lockdowns imposed in many countries, but have shut down all non-essential services in Moscow from Thursday until November 7. Retail outlets, restaurants, and sporting and entertainment venues are all closed, along with schools and kindergartens. Only shops selling food, medicine and other essentials are allowed to remain open.

President Vladimir Putin’s government has been pinning its hopes on homegrown vaccines like the Sputnik V jab, but Russians have proven stubbornly resistant to being inoculated. As of Thursday, only 32 percent of Russia’s population had been fully vaccinated, according to the Gogov website, which tallies Covid-19 data from the regions.

Putin last week ordered a nationwide paid holiday between October 30 and November 7 in a bid to reverse rising infections, and Moscow authorities followed suit by ordering the shutdown of non-essential services in the capital from Thursday.

Roads in Moscow on Thursday morning were slightly less congested than usual, but the city’s sprawling Metro network was as busy as ever, with many passengers not wearing masks. Authorities have not required Russians to stay at home during the non-working period and many were planning to use the days to travel across the country and abroad.

The mayor of the Black Sea resort city of Sochi has warned of a huge influx of tourists, and demand in Russia for flights bound for Turkey and Egypt has soared. Russia has recorded nearly 8.4 million cases and more than 235,000 deaths, though independent experts say authorities have downplayed the severity of the pandemic.

Figures published by statistics agency Rosstat in October paint a darker picture, suggesting that more than 400,000 people have died in the country from the coronavirus. After a severe months-long lockdown early in the pandemic, Russian authorities have been hesitant to impose further restrictions that would hurt the economy, instead pleading with Russians to get vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Ukraine’s capital Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, imposed new coronavirus restrictions on Thursday as the country struggles to contain a surge in infections. Ukraine reported 26,071 new Covid cases in 24 hours Thursday — a record for the ex-Soviet country since the pandemic began.

Kiev schools will work remotely when they resume classes after a holiday break on Monday, Mayor Klitschko announced at a last-minute press conference. He also imposed restrictions on the city’s public transport system, saying vaccination certificates or negative tests will be required to use the network. While passengers will not be checked when boarding buses or trains, Klitschko said special police units will be doing random checks.

From Monday, staff and visitors in public venues such as cinemas and gyms will be required to be vaccinated or have a negative PCR test. The restrictions are intended to “save people’s health and lives” and “to prevent the collapse of the medical system”, Klitschko said.

The new anti-Covid measures in the capital followed similar restrictions in several other hard hit regions in the country, which has an under-resourced health service. As last reports came in, treating high-risk Covid-19 patients with the antidepressant fluvoxamine may reduce the risk of prolonged hospitalisation by up to a third, a large-scale study showed on Thursday.

Authors said the research could help boost low-cost protection against severe sickness or death in countries that have yet to receive adequate vaccine doses during a grossly uneven rollout.

Fluvoxamine is traditionally used to treat mental health conditions such as depression and obsessive-compulsive disorders and was selected for trial due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

Many problems stemming from Covid are caused by swelling as the immune system over-reacts to the infection. Writing in the journal The Lancet Public Health, researchers from North and South America, described results in nearly 1,500 Covid-19 outpatients in Brazil.

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