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Make Covid-19 jabs compulsory, Russian bosses demand, as business fears big losses from new ‘non-working days’ after record deaths

Make Covid-19 jabs compulsory, Russian bosses demand, as business fears big losses from new ‘non-working days’ after record deaths
A group of Russian trade associations have urged the government not to shutter shops as part of a new plan to drive down the sharp spike in coronavirus cases across the country, arguing instead that jabs should become mandatory.

On Wednesday, the Association of Retail Companies (AKORT) and the Association of Internet Trading Companies (AKIT) published a letter sent to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Grigorenko, making the case for “de facto compulsory and universal vaccination.”

“In addition, business believes that it is worth allowing citizens to be vaccinated for free not only in public clinics, but also in private ones,” the letter says. A number of immunization points handing out jabs have seen queues form in recent days as regional governments introduced new measures aimed at boosting uptake.

Their requests come days after the news that the government would extend a national holiday, with Moscow and St. Petersburg shutting down shops for several days, and the Kremlin ordering officials to look at introducing a nationwide 11pm curfew on nightlife. The business associations, however, say this hits them at the worst possible time.

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“The period from October to December is a high season in trade, during which a number of companies generate 30-50% of annual revenues. Therefore, the closure of retail outlets will have a detrimental effect on both trade enterprises and the country’s economy as a whole,” the letter continues.

On Wednesday, the head of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia, Mikhail Shmakov, also backed the demands to take away people’s ability to opt out of vaccines, saying that this is the right time for mandatory jabs.

“I understand that this is an unpopular call. There comes a time when it is necessary to move from voluntariness to compulsory vaccination, because this is already threatening the population, the human population in our country… The future of the world of work in Russia,” he said.

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Earlier this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that while “the best tool we have in this fight is vaccination,” there should be “no imposition” of the jabs on citizens. However, at last week’s Valdai Discussion Club conference, he argued that “regional authorities have the right to introduce compulsory vaccination in connection with the growth of the epidemic on the recommendations of the chief sanitary doctors for certain categories of citizens.” To date, however, this has only included those working in high-risk, public-facing jobs and those in regional government.

Local authorities have introduced a variety of initiatives in an attempt to boost vaccine uptake. In early October, the governor of Kursk region, Roman Starovoit, said he would stop road repairs in districts with low numbers of people getting their shot. In August, Russians who had been jabbed were offered free entry into a national lottery, with the chance of winning 100,000 rubles (about $1,378).

Despite the incentives, Russia has lagged behind many other European nations when it comes to the proportion of the population signing up for the jab. Fewer than one in three people have had both doses at present, and the highest number of daily deaths since the start of the pandemic has been recorded on several days throughout October.

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