MOSCOW – Coronavirus infections and deaths in Russia climbed Friday to another pandemic record, putting a growing strain on the country’s health care system.
The government coronavirus task force reported 37,141 new infections and 1,064 deaths in the past 24 hours. That brought Russia´s death toll to 228,453, Europe’s highest by far, AP reported.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has responded to the worsening situation by ordering Russians to stay off work from Oct. 30 to Nov. 7, when the country is already observing an extended holiday.
Russian authorities expect the order to help limit the spread of the virus by keeping them out of offices and off public transportation, where mask mandates have been widely ignored. The government also urged local authorities to tighten their own restrictions during the period.
In some regions where the situation is even more threatening, Putin said the nonworking period could start as early as Saturday and be extended past Nov. 7.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin followed up Thursday by introducing new restrictions in the capital, starting even earlier.
Gyms, cinemas and other entertainment venues, as well as most stores will close in Moscow from Oct. 28 to Nov. 7, along with kindergartens and schools. Restaurants and cafes will only be open for takeout or delivery orders during that period. Food stores and pharmacies can stay open.
Access to museums, theaters, concert halls and other venues will be limited to those holding digital codes on their smartphones to prove vaccination or past illness, a practice that will remain in place even after Nov. 7.
Most state organizations and private businesses, except for those operating key infrastructure and a few others, will halt work in the 11-day period, Sobyanin said.
Russia´s daily infections have been surging for weeks and mortality numbers topped 1,000 for the first time last weekend amid low vaccination rates, lax public attitudes toward taking precautions and the government´s reluctance to tighten restrictions. Only about 45 million Russians – roughly a third of its nearly 146 million people – are fully vaccinated.
Russia was the first country in the world to authorize a coronavirus vaccine, launching Sputnik V in August 2020, and has plentiful supplies. But uptake has been slow, blamed in part on conflicting signals from authorities.