A prominent Russian news anchor has sparked backlash after publicly backing the anti-mask movement and questioning the dangers of Covid-19 in a viral Instagram comment published just hours before the Russian government reinstated a countrywide mask mandate.
In his original post, businessman Yan Yanovsky complained that most spectators at Spanish opera singer Plácido Domingo's recent performance at Moscow's Bolshoi Theater did not follow the mask requirement, even though Russia’s chief sanitary doctor Anna Popova was among the audience. Masks have been required at all cultural events and establishments since they re-opened over the summer.
“I also sit in theater stalls without a mask. Wearing it for a long time could lead to emphyzema caused by oxygen deficiency, which is much worse than Covid,” Channel One anchor Yekaterina Andreeva wrote in a since-deleted comment.
Andreeva, 58, cited unreferenced statistics from Russia and the United States, as well as personal calculations, which she claimed allowed her to conclude that global death rates have actually fallen during the pandemic.
“I am thinking of all the petrified people who were compelled to think that the virus is dangerous, though the statistics suggest otherwise,” she wrote.
The anchor expressed concern for the businesses and the tourism industry that sustained losses as a result of stringent coronavirus restrictions, saying that the money made on tests, masks, gloves and hand sanitizers wasn't enough to make up for the lost business.
The screenshot of Andreeva's comment quickly went viral on Russian social media, with users criticizing her lack of adherence to mask-wearing rules.
Andreeva has been a leading news anchor of Russia’s state-run Channel One evening news bulletins since 1997. One of the most recognizable faces of Russian television, she has over half a million Instagram followers.
Russia crossed the 1.5 million mark for Covid-19 infections over the weekend and set a daily record of 17,347 new cases Monday.
Starting Wednesday, Russians will be required to wear masks in all crowded places, including public transport, taxis, parking lots and elevators, Rospotrebnadzor said Tuesday.