Coming off multiple record numbers in daily coronavirus case jumps, including another record increase of 11,656 new infections on Monday, Russia briefly reached the grim achievement of ranking as the third most infected country in the world, behind the United States and Spain.
At this moment Russia and the UK are actually about even in third and fourth spots, with each approaching 225,000 cases. The new record rise in cases was announced a mere hours President Vladimir Putin was set to review lockdown measures.
The epicenter of Moscow currently has over 115,909 cases and its 'stay at home' orders have been extended until at least the end of May, with Putin on Monday further confirming the continuation of a nation-wide 'non-working' period to combat the spread. In total Russia has reported 2,009 deaths.
“But the fight with the epidemic isn’t ending, its threat remains even in territories where the situation is relatively safe,” Putin said.
“Starting tomorrow, May 12, the national non-working period will end for the entire country and for all sectors of the economy,” he announced.
In an effort to insulate the economy from more devastating impact, Moscow city plans to reopen industrial and construction company operations Tuesday. But like most countries service and entertainment sector related businesses such as restaurants, bars and theaters will remain closed.
Meanwhile, the strain on under-prepared hospitals especially in and around the hard-hit capital has become so significant that Russian medical students have alleged they've been pushed onto the front lines of coronavirus wards while under "forced labor" conditions.
The country previously announced it would drastically expand hospital bed availability by 100,000 nationwide. But not only the shortage of doctors but a recent explosion of cases among doctors, nurses and hospital staff has caused officials to push students into the fray.
As Al Jazeera describes:
Daunted by the prospect of contracting the virus in the clinics and infecting family members, or facing expulsion, aspiring medics have protested against the decision to send students in their fourth, fifth and sixth years - who can be as young as 21 - to complete their medical training in coronavirus clinics.
The Ministry of Health announced on April 27 that the measure would go into effect starting May 1, and only students with "medical contraindications" can refuse.
The decree reportedly calls on students in all medical fields, even dentistry and pediatrics, to respond on an emergency basis.
"Those who refuse to go will not get their qualification and can face expulsion," Svetlana, a sixth-year student, told Al Jazeera.
Some medical schools and hospitals are said to be taking steps to compensate the temporary help in a more fair way, while also considering dropping any potential punitive actions against students who refuse to work in COVID-19 wards.