President Vladimir Putin calls for unity in 2021 as second wave beats Russia

MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin in his new year speech Thursday, urged the Russians to unite in the face of countrythe battle against the coronavirus pandemic.
Appearing in front of the Kremlin for an address to be broadcast just before midnight in each of the RussiaAcross the 11 time zones, Putin admitted that a second wave of infections continues to hit the country.
“Unfortunately, the epidemic is not yet completely stopped. The fight against it does not stop for a minute,” he said on the public channel Rossiya 1, which broadcast the speech at midnight in Russia. Far East (12:00 GMT).
The president, who wore a black coat over a white shirt with a red tie, added that many medical workers would be “on duty this holiday night” and called on everyone “not to back down in the face of difficulties, to preserve our unity “.
The longtime Russian leader said in his 17th New Year’s speech that he was convinced that together the Russians could “overcome everything” and “restore normal life”.
Unlike many European countries, Russia has avoided reimposing the type of strict national lockdown it introduced this spring in hopes of supporting a struggling economy.
While some large cities have cut back office workers and forced bars and restaurants to close early, most areas have limited restrictions to reduce mass gatherings and require masks to be worn in public places.
But many Russians are ignoring social distancing guidelines, and deaths from Covid-19 have increased in recent weeks.
Moscow, one of the country’s epicenters, has seen virus-related deaths drop from 1,569 in September to 3,573 in October to 4,542 in November.
Officials this week also confirmed that the national death toll from the virus is three times higher than previously reported.
But with the approval ratings for Putin United russia party in decline ahead of the main parliamentary elections next year, Russia is hoping to avoid shutting down its economy.
Instead, he banked on a mass vaccination program using his Sputnik V shot the epidemic.
But with the Russians deeply skeptical of getting the jab, the rollout has been slow.
In Moscow, only 50,000 people have been vaccinated so far, as several recent polls have shown that only 38% of Russians plan to be vaccinated.