WHO says ‘delayed epidemic’ takes hold in eastern Europe as coronavirus cases in Russia rise

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People wear masks as a preventive measure against the coronavirus pandemic at the Red Square in Moscow, Russia on March 17, 2020.

Sefa Karacan | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

A delayed coronavirus epidemic has taken hold in Eastern Europe as cases and deaths rise in Russia while outbreaks in Western Europe begin to subside, World Health Officials said on Friday. 

“There are differences right now between Western Europe, which has been through that first big wave, and Eastern Europe, particularly Russian Federation, that is now experiencing higher numbers of disease,” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s emergencies program, said at a press briefing. 

Russia is now the world’s fifth-most infected country with more than 187,800 cases, surpassing Germany and France, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin extended the city’s lockdown until the end of May, according to The Moscow Times. 

“Russia is just in a different phase of the pandemic and can learn some of the lessons that have been learned at great costs in Asia, in North America and in Western Europe,” Ryan said.

Ryan said that the country has implemented “very large-scale public health and social-distancing measures,” while increasing lab testing across the country in response to the outbreak.

He said the country has tested nearly 430,000 people and the rate of people testing positive is near 3.6%, which is fairly low compared to other countries.

However, the disease is “clearly having an impact” on the country, which has recently experienced a surge in deaths related to Covid-19, Ryan said. The country is now reporting more than 1,723 Covid-19 deaths, according to Hopkins. 

“I think the government has really shifted its responses into a much more aggressive mode over the last week or so because I think there is a growing realization that this disease is requiring a scaled-up response,” Ryan said. 

This is a developing story. Please check back later for updates. 

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