When in late March Vladimir Putin visited a Moscow hospital wearing a hazmat suit, he got ridiculed by Russian viewers for more than one reason. First, the full-body protective gear was obviously overkill. Unless his immune system had been damaged by some other illness, the man had to have a paranoid fear of the virus to get into that outfit. Second, the suit was obviously expensive – American-made, some said, meaning outrageously expensive if true. Both its cost and the degree of protection it afforded contrasted with everybody else’s appearance. The medical personnel seemed to be wearing flimsy nose and mouth coverings with eye protectors suspiciously resembling skiing or snorkeling masks.
Apart from all the ridicule, contempt and grotesquery, Putin’s appearance sent out the message that, to him, Covid-19 was not a harmless flu-like infection. Now, almost six weeks later and five weeks into the de-facto quarantine in Moscow, the daily number of new cases is still growing. The economy is suffering both from the low oil prices and the lockdown. I have a hunch, completely unsubstantiated of course, that the Kremlin is going to relax the lockdown despite the unyielding spread rate – claiming, perhaps, that the virus has lost much of its initial virulence and is no longer as dangerous as it used to be in the early days of Wuhan. Perhaps it’s just my fixation on head in the sand strategies of all sorts.