MOSCOW: Russia reported a record high number of daily coronavirus deaths on Wednesday as the country struggles with stubbornly high infection rates and regions beyond Moscow cautiously bring back pandemic restrictions.
The world’s fifth worst-hit country with more than 7.5 million infections, Russia has seen cases climb since August driven by the contagious Delta variant and a sluggish vaccinations drive.
A government tally recorded 929 Covid-19 deaths in the past 24 hours, Russia’s highest daily virus death toll since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Several Russia-made jabs have been available for months, but authorities have struggled to encourage its vaccine-sceptic population to get inoculated.
Polls show that more than half of Russians do not plan to get a shot.
As of Wednesday, just under 30 percent of Russia’s 146 million population had been fully vaccinated, according to the Gogov website, which tallies Covid-19 data from the regions.
Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said earlier this week that death rates were high among unvaccinated Russians.
The surging infections have come without any real pandemic restrictions to limit the spread, but several regions have re-introduced QR codes for access to public places.
Moscow — the epicentre of Russia’s outbreak — has so far held back on reintroducing restrictions.
Kremlin spokesman Dmity Peskov said on Wednesday lockdowns would be “an absolutely undesirable scenario for any region”.
He also poured cold water on any nationwide measures saying regions were “taking action individually”.
In the capital, authorities say that the highly contagious Delta variant now accounts for all of the cases.
Speaking at a government meeting on Tuesday, Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin said his city was “far from peak numbers” and the growing infections are largely linked to high detection rates.
Two thirds of Moscow’s hospital beds for coronavirus patients are currently occupied, he said.
In September, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, 68, self-isolated for two weeks after dozens of coronavirus cases were detected in his inner circle.
Russian authorities have been accused of downplaying the severity of the outbreak and, after a tight first lockdown in 2020, have refrained from introducing restrictive new measures.
The new deaths bring Russia’s total fatalities from coronavirus to 212,625 — the highest toll in Europe.
However, the official figures only count virus fatalities where the virus was identified as the primary cause of death after an autopsy.
Under a broader definition for deaths linked to the coronavirus, statistics agency Rosstat reported in August that Russia had seen more than 350,000 fatalities.