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Covid infections and deaths in Russia climb to new record high

Russian President Vladimir Putin. Picture by Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP 
Vladimir Isachenkov, Associated Press

Coronavirus infections and deaths in Russia have climbed to another pandemic record, putting a growing strain on the country’s healthcare system.

The government coronavirus task force reported 37,141 new infections and 1,064 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing Russia’s death toll to 228,453, the highest in Europe.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has responded to the worsening situation by ordering people to stay off work from October 30 to November 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 transport, 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 was even more threatening, Mr Putin said the non-working period could start as early as Saturday and be extended past November 7.

Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin followed up on Thursday by introducing new restrictions in the capital, starting even earlier.

Gyms, cinemas and other entertainment venues, as well as most shops will close in Moscow from October 28 to November 7, along with nurseries and schools. Restaurants and cafes will only be open for takeaways or delivery orders during that period. Food shops and pharmacies are allowed to remain open.

Access to museums, theatres, 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 beyond November 7.

Most state organisations and private businesses, except those operating key infrastructure and a few others, will halt work in the 11-day period, Mr Sobyanin said.

Russia’s daily infections have been surging for weeks and the number of deaths topped 1,000 for the first time last weekend amid low vaccination rates, lax public attitudes towards taking precautions and the government’s reluctance to tighten restrictions.

Some 45 million Russians — roughly a third of its nearly 146 million people — are fully vaccinated.

Russia was the first country in the world to authorise 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.

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