Russia hits another record of daily coronavirus deathsTuesday, October 19, 2021
MOSCOW, Russia (AP) — Russia registered another daily record of coronavirus deaths Tuesday as rapidly surging infection rates raised pressure on the country's health care system and prompted the government to suggest declaring a nonworking week.
The government task force reported 1,015 coronavirus deaths over the past 24 hours, the highest number since the start of the pandemic. That brought the total death toll to 225,325 — by far the highest in Europe. It also registered 33,740 new infections over the past day.
Amid a spike in infections and deaths, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova suggested introducing a weeklong nonworking period starting October 30. She said the Cabinet will ask President Vladimir Putin to authorise the move.
The Kremlin so far has ruled out a new nationwide lockdown like the one early on in the pandemic that dealt a heavy blow to the economy and sapped Putin's popularity
The daily coronavirus mortality numbers have been surging for weeks and topped 1,000 for the first time over the weekend amid sluggish vaccination rates, lax public attitude toward taking precautions and the government's reluctance to toughen restrictions.
Russia boasted about becoming the first country in the world to authorise a coronavirus vaccine in August 2020 even though it was only tested on a few dozen of people at the time, proudly naming the shot Sputnik V after the world's first satellite to underline the country's scientific achievements.
While extolling Sputnik and three other domestic vaccines developed later, Russia's state-controlled media chafed at the perceived flaws of Western-made shots, a controversial message that many observers saw as feeding public doubts about vaccines.
Amid widespread vaccine hesitancy, authorities have raised pressure on medical workers, teachers and public servants to get the shots, but the uptake has remained sluggish.
The government coronavirus task force said Monday that about 45 million Russians, or 32 per cent of the country's nearly 146 million people, are fully vaccinated.
Putin has underlined the importance of broad vaccination, but emphasised that it should remain voluntary.
Authorities have opened vaccination locations in shopping malls and other facilities outside clinics and tried to encourage people to get the shots with lotteries, bonuses and other incentives, but all those efforts have failed to considerably accelerate the efforts.
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov noted while the government has done everything to make vaccines easily available it should have been more proactive in its efforts to encourage vaccination.
"Obviously, more should have been done to explain the lack of alternative to vaccination," Peskov said in a conference call with reporters.
Asked if the government could authorise imports of foreign vaccines to help boost intake, Peskov charged that vaccine skepticism isn't limited to domestic shots. He also emphasised that the issue should be solved on an equal basis. Russia-EU talks on mutual recognition of coronavirus vaccines have dragged on without an end in sight.
While resisting a nationwide lockdown, the Kremlin empowered authorities across the country's 11 time zones to decide on restrictions depending on the local situation.
Many of Russia's 85 regions already have restricted attendance at large public events and limited access to theatres, restaurants and other venues. Some have made vaccination compulsory for certain categories of public servants and people older than 60.