MOSCOW – The fight against coronavirus has stopped performances by the world famous Bolshoi Theater company, something that even World War II couldn’t do.

It’s part of Russia’s efforts to contain an outbreak which President Putin claims as “a whole is under control.”

For weeks, Russia only reported a handful of infections. Then on Monday, that number went from 63 to 93. The next day it was 114, and the day after 147.

The government jumped into action— closing the border to foreigners, banning gatherings of more than 50, and forcing residents returning from abroad to self-isolate. Muscovites responded by stockpiling, emptying supermarket shelves and wearing face masks.

But for some experts this response might be coming too late. Anastasia Vasilyeva, Head of an independent doctors union, Doctors Alliance told VICE News, “Across the country, there are a huge amount of patients with pneumonia … we cannot ignore the coincidence and link these pneumonia cases with Coronavirus. In my opinion, there are tens of thousands of cases that we don’t know about.”

She's not the only one who is worried that the rate of infection in a country of 146 million people, that borders China on one side and Europe on the other, seems suspiciously low. Especially because most people who arrived from abroad haven’t been tested.

Although Putin claims Russia has curtailed the spread of the epidemic he’s called for an increase in the production of tests and more supplies of medicine and equipment. The government has gone so far as to order prisoners to start making face masks.

But for Vasilyeva, the national response isn’t going far enough: “Russia is absolutely not ready for the epidemic. I am more than sure that even serious cases and deaths will be simply hidden from the population.”

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Associated Press 11 May 2020 11:44 CEST

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